Culver City

This west Los Angeles city boasting the ‘smallest Main Street in the world” is named for its creator, Harry H. Culver, a Nebraska native who moved to California in 1910 after stints as a customs agent and reporter in the Philippines following enlisting in the Spanish-American War.

Culver took a job in real estate with developer Isaac Newton Van Nuys — yes, that Van Nuys —  then went out on his own.

The city that would bear his name – between Los Angeles and the resort of Venice – was 93 acres of barley when Culver stopped his car on West Washington Blvd. and decided it was the ideal location for a “balanced community of residential, commercial and industrial properties.”

He laid out his vision in a speech to the California Club in 1913.

Starting with less than $5,000 he created the Culver Investment Company with offices on Main Street.

To lure buyers of his city lots, Culver employed more than a few P.T. Barnum-esque tactics:

Dance marathons. Free picnics. A polo game with Ford automobiles. Awarding a free lot to the parents of Culver City’s most beautiful baby. Newspaper ads trumpeting that “All Roads Lead to Culver City.”

He brought studios there, including MGM, one of the city’s largest employers.

With the nearby studios, Culver City in the 1920s was a wild place with night clubs, speakeasies, a racetrack, bookies, hookers and frequently exploding illegal stills.

The actors who played the Munchkins in “The Wizard of Oz” lived there during filming.

Nearby Loyola Marymount University also owes part of its existence to Culver. He donated 99 acres on top of a bluff on the east side of Pacific Coast Highway to the Jesuits on the condition they would have a building erected there within a year.

The Jesuits built two.

In 1916, Culver married the actress Lillian Roberts. They had one child, Patricia who died in 2001 at age 84.

Culver died in 1946 after a series of strokes. He was 66.


Filed under: California History, News

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