The Ivy station
The Ivy Substation was constructed in 1907 by the Los Angeles Pacific Railway, which became part of the Los Angeles Pacific Railway Electric Company. It operated as one of its largest electric substations as a branch for the electrical generation and distribution system. Electricity was transformed and distributed to create the power for the electric railway system. The substation received alternating current (AC) and transformed it into direct current (DC) for use by the electric trains. This substation was located along the "Balloon Route" rail line from downtown Los Angeles to the Pacific Ocean.
When real estate developer Harry Culver searched the area for land to establish his city, an important factor was transportation. The Ivy Substation played a role, and although it was not the depot as many have thought, it supplied the power. By the time Culver City began to materialize, one could catch a "Red Car" downtown to Los Angeles, or to Abbot Kinney's resort of Venice.
By 1954, the historic Mission Revival style building stood empty and eventually the weathered structure became a haven for transients. In the mid 1970's, David Cameron, a noted railroad historian, realized that the building must be protected or it would face demolition. Cameron, also a member of the Culver City Historical Society, lobbied to place the Ivy Substation on the National Register of Historic Places which happened in 1981. His successful campaign saved the structure from demolition by the Caltrans Venice Boulevard Improvement Project. Ivy is also designated as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #182. (Note plaque inside.)
Although the structure is actually in Los Angeles, it appears as a gateway to Culver City. Recognizing this, the Culver City Redevelopment Agency entered into a 40-year lease with the City of Los Angeles in 1987 with the option of a ten year renewal. This contract also included adjacent Media Park, named in a contest sponsored by our city's founder, Harry Culver. The winning entry was submitted by a pharmacist in nearby Palms, and his prize was a trip around the world!
The renovation of the building and park was funded by the Culver City Redevelopment Agency, with significant support from current and past Los Angeles Conservancy members Robert Burke and David Cameron. Los Angeles retained jurisdiction over the properties with review by the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, and the Cultural Heritage and Cultural Affairs Commission. This also assured that the renovation would comply with the standards established by the U. S. Secretary of the Interior.
Design and construction plans were prepared by Architect Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA. The work, by contractor Driver Eddy Construction Co., included asbestos abatement, lead-based paint removal, seismic strengthening of the original brick building, installation of replicated historic power poles and wires and the artistic cooling fountain, provision of utility services and ancillary facilities, non-intrusive disabled access modifications and landscaping improvements to the adjacent park grounds. Susan Berg was the CCRA project manager.
The Ivy Substation re-opened in a week of celebration in April of 1993, featuring free events for all segments of the community. Since that time, it has been used as a venue for a variety of entertainment events, meetings and parties.