Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Movie Studios-Culver City

After the news that Amazon Studios will be moving into Culver Studios at 9336 Washington Blvd, we looked into the history of this movie studio.

Culver Studios (c) Elisa Leonelli

It was built by silent movie producer-director Thomas Ince in 1918 on a lot acquired from Harry Culver, who founded Culver City in 1917. It was owned by director Cecil B. De Mille from 1925 to 1928, then by RKO-Pathé from 1933 to 1950. For several years it was leased by David O’ Selznick, producer of Gone with the Wind (1939). In 1950 it was purchased Howard Hughes, who continued to lease it. In 1956 it was bought by Lucille and Desi Arnaz for their Desilu Studios; they renamed it Culver Studios in 1970. It was acquired by Sony Pictures in 1991 and its 13 sound stages have housed the production of countless movies. See list and history at this link.

MGM Studios Colonnade (c) Elisa Leonelli

And here’s the history of the most legendary movie studio, MGM, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, that was not located in Hollywood but in Culver City, which in 1936 was dubbed “The Heart of Screenland.” It was built in 1915 as Triangle Studios by Thomas Ince, who moved its Inceville here from the Pacific Coast Highway at Sunset, then sold the lot to Samuel Goldwyn in 1918. Its original colonnade entrance along Washington Blvd in Greek-revival style is still standing. In 1924 it became MGM Studios, after the merger of three companies: Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Studios, Louis B. Mayer Productions. In 1981 it merged with United Artists into MGM-UA, it was sold to Lorimar in 1986. In 1989 Warner Bros, who had bought Lorimar, sold the lot to Columbia Pictures, that had been acquired by Sony, the Japanese tech giant. Sony Pictures spent $100 million to completely renovate the historic studio to its former glory, including the 1938 Thalberg building.

Culver Hotel (c) Elisa Leonelli

Harry Culver built the Culver Hotel in 1924 in Renaissance revival style, renovated in 2013, with 46 rooms and a lively restaurant.

The Helms Bakery was built as the official bakery of the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

No longer standing is another movie studio in Culver City, the Hal Roach Studios (1919-1963)

In the parking lot in front of Culver Studios, construction has started for a retail and restaurant complex called The Culver Steps. It is scheduled to open in 2019 like the giant 500,000 square feet Ivy Station in the parking lot of the Expo station that closed in February.

Sony Studios, Culver gate (c) Elisa Leonelli

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

1920s Jazz club

Cotton Club, Culver City

Cotton Club, Culver City – Los Angeles Library Photo

While reading the online newspaper LAist, we learned about the Cotton Club by Frank Sebastian, that opened in 1926 in Culver City, during the Prohibition era (1919 to 1933), and operated until 1938.  Located at 6500 Washington, it offered valet parking, three dance floors, full orchestras, dinner and breakfast, plus secret gambling rooms.  Modeled after the jazz club by the same name in Harlem, New York, it catered to white customers only and featured bands of black musicians. Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Cab Calloway, and Louis Armstrong played there often.
Culver City was a neighborhood popular with movie stars, because it housed M-G-M, the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, from 1924 to 1986, and the Thomas Ince Studios, built in 1918, that became the Cecil De Mille studios in 1925, RKO-Pathé Studios in 1928, and Selznick Pictures in 1935. Renamed Culver Studios in 1970, it’s located at 9336 Washington Blvd. The MGM studios at 10202 Washington Blvd were bought by Sony Pictures in 1990, and beautifully restored.

Cotton Club by Francis Coppola

Cotton Club by Francis Coppola

Cotton Club, the 1984 movie by Francis Coppola, starring Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Gregory Hines and Lonette McKee, is set in the New York City’s Cotton Club. Duke Ellington’s was the orchestra in residency there from 1927 to 1930, then Cub Calloway’s band played from 1931 to 1934.  The jazz club and speakeasy operated in Harlem from 1923 to 1936, then it was moved downtown to Broadway and 48th St (from 1936 to 1940), after the Harlem Race Riot of 1935, because that neighborhood no longer felt safe for whites.

Cotton Club, New York

Cotton Club, New York

Why the name cotton?  Because the club decor was designed to evoke a plantation environment.  In Culver City silent movie star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle built his Plantation Cafe, at 11700 Washington Blvd, in 1928.

Text by Elisa Leonelli

Casa Rocha

Casa Rocha 2

For years I had heard stories about this cluster of homes on Shenandoah Street, down a tree lined path from an old sign that says “Casa Rocha.”  So finally I decided to do an Internet search and I was delighted to find a website page about “Rocha Adobe” with a lengthy description of the history of this house, which was built in 1865 by Jose Antonio Rocha, designated Historical-Cultural Monument in 1963, and restored in 1979.
There are many fascinating stories about the history of our neighborhood, Reynier Village.
Please send us the ones that you know and we’ll post them.


Elisa Leonelli

Real estate ad for our area, beautiful . . . Westview Park?

Exactly what you’re looking for  – Close in, low priced, Westside lots”

“Westview Park is the real estate opportunity of 1924”

Los Angeles Times advertisement, January 6, 1924

Los Angeles Times advertisement, January 6, 1924

As shown on the map, it appears that Robertson Blvd. was first named Arnaz; then called Preuss Rd.  By 1927 however, it was already renamed Robertson Blvd. (see post below).

Anyone with information about Westview Park is welcome to email us as we’d like to publish more!

In the meantime, here is the entire David & Co. real estate ad from 1924.

Text by Deni Mosser

In 1927, some street names were different

In doing a little historic research on our area, check out this Sanborn map of our neighborhood in 1927.

Our neighborhood in 1927

Our neighborhood in 1927

Beverlywood Street used to be Emmalee Street;
25th Street was Henry Butt Avenue;
24th Street was Kelson Avenue;
and it looks like Sherbourne (just North of Cadillac) used to be Kalamazoo.

Note that south of Cattaraugus was considered Culver City back then.

Now, Robertson Blvd. wasn’t always called Robertson.  In a 1924 real estate ad (I’ll post later).  it was called Preuss Rd (Arnaz).   Go figure.

Text by Deni Mosser

Historic Architecture: ‘Minimal Traditional’, Late 1930’s – 1940’s

To our delight, not all houses in Reynier Village are ‘Spanish Colonial Revival’.  We have some fine  examples of   Tudor/English Revival, Transitional Arts & Crafts, and lesser known as ‘historic’ but nevertheless is, a style called Minimal Traditional, homes that were  built in the late 1930’s-1940’s (and lasted until the early 1950’s).

You’ve seen Minimal Traditional all over Beverlywood and Beverlywood-Adjacent and Reynier Village has a few as well.

Here’s a typical Minimal Traditional home (location: Glendale)

Typical Minimal Traditional style home Late 1930's-1940's

Typical Minimal Traditional style home Late 1930’s-1940’s

The style was loosely based on the Tudor Revival and Eclectic Revival styles of the 1920s and 30s, but with much less ornamentation and decorative detailing. Although they are simplified versions of historic styles, they were still built with high quality materials (lathe & plaster walls, traditional fireplace mantles, crown moulding, paneled doors, and  wood cabinetry). Exterior architectural detailing is restrained   – the use of ornament is kept to a minimum.   This type of house was built in great numbers in the years immediately before and after World War II.

Features: bay windows, multi-paned windows, sand-finish stucco,attached or detached one and two car garages, intermediate hipped, gabled or gabled on hipped roofs. Minimal Traditional features are sometimes mixed with later Ranch styles.

Sources of information:
City of L.A. Office of Historic Resources
Glendale Historic Preservation
Text by Deni Mosser

Martha immortalizes “the Village”

Reynier Village, as described by Los Angeles Times columnist Martha Groves, “contains fine old houses, many of them Spanish Revival in style, loaded with original charm and relatively affordable, at least by the current dizzying standards”.


For a delightful overview of Reynier Village and its history, read Martha’s 2006 real estate article
“Spanish style still defines central pocket”

Thank you Martha!

Deni Mosser