Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Old Hotel Dance or You're not in Kansas anymore Dorothy.

 I feel a deep connection to Culver City. When I first moved to Los Angeles I worked in a shoe store at the Fox Hills Mall . Downtown Culver City was a dump. Many beautiful old buildings were abandoned and had been taken over by the homeless or used by street people, drug dealers and gangs.

Culver City was founded in 1917 by Harry H. Culver. Legend has it Harry saw a beautiful woman named Lillian Roberts in a pale yellow sundress and a big straw hat standing on a train platform in the Culver City area. He was many years her senior and did not approach her. A friend of his, who knew Miss Roberts arranged for him to meet her.

Harry posed as the limo driver for his friend and his wife and they invited Lillian to join them for a night on the town. The couple sat in the back seat putting Lillian in the front seat next to Harry. He spent the evening charming her and soon they began to date. (they later married) Harry built the Culver Hotel so he had a reason to stay in town and court Lillian.

 The Culver Hotel is built on land that was originally home to the first theater in Culver City called The Merratta. I have always been able to feel that old thespian energy when near it.

It was first called The Hotel Hunt and the name later changed to The Culver Hotel.

 It is a wedge shaped revival style building made of brick and stone. It is 6 stories high and has 200 windows. In 1924 it was considered a sky scrapper on the " shortest main street in the USA".

 The first time I saw it I was smitten, but it most would think I was mad to be taken with this deteriorated heap of bricks and cement . Clothing hanging on cloths lines out the window and trash dumped everywhere. An old stained couch out front that you could only imagine who and what slept on. It would have been a great location for the Broadway Play " Hot'l Baltimore".
 Nothing like it's illustrious past when it was once the residence of movie stars from MGM. It is famous for housing all of the "little people" during the filming of " The Wizard of Oz'. Tales of secret hallways and wild parties can not be confirmed but it is said these "little people" partied hearty!

 Now questionable characters were leaning up against the building with Thunderbird bottles clustered at their feet. It's beauty had substantially faded but seeing it through rose colored glasses, I could envision it's glamorous beginnings.

My roommate at the time and I were searching for an apartment. As a joke I brought him to this relic with serious flop house appeal in this oh so seedy part of town and said "Isn't it beautiful lets live here!".

 He looked at me with wide eyes and before he could speak I gleefully exclaimed "Got ya!" and  started laughing. He also laughed with relief. But truth is something in it called to me. It called to a place deep inside so far back that it went to a time before I was in this physical body. Maybe it was in my DNA as my Mother loved all things to do with the "movies" and spent much of her childhood at the theater blissfully escaping her depression era life in films.

Harry H. Culver died in 1946 and from the 1950's to the 1990's due to real estate troubles it fell into  a state of disrepair.

The Culver hotel has had many owners. Truth or urban legend, I don't know for sure, alleges that Charlie Chaplin owned it and sold it to John Wayne for $1 in a poker game. Red Skelton is also said to have owned it at one time. I can how ever confirm that Lou Catlett bought it and spent his life savings restoring it.

The hotel only had one bathroom for each floor making it most inconvenient and Lou brought it up to code and up to date. Mr. Caplett went bankrupt but The Culver Hotel was saved. This seems to be the fate of the hotel for it's entire existence.

When I first saw it in flop house conditions it was the early1980's . Somewhere in the 1990's Sony made it's head quarters in Culver City and breathed new life into the whole area. It was once again restored but still carries the look and  feeling of a slightly faded rose. Today it is a family owned business and the shinning star of Culver City. It is listed in The National Register of Historic Places.

Just last night I had dinner in Culver City on a tree lined street with twinkling lights. It still feels magical and it still calls to something deep in my soul.


  1. I remember when I first came to town I was a food runner at the then Columbia Studios, soon to become Sony studios. wasn't but a couple of years ago I ventured to Culver City and marvelled at this grand old Hotel. Thanks for the memories

  2. Hi Lilli! I appreciate your comment- love your site and I'll be reading your words and connecting w/ your spirit....
    Dance my friend.....

  3. Hi Lilli, nice to meet you, and thank you for visiting my blog! I love the Culver City area and as a life long southern Californian I don't believe I have ever seen this hotel! It's been a while since we have been to that neck o the woods so a field trip is in order. I love history and this hotel just begs for more investigation! Thank you for sharing! Stop by again sometime!


  4. Hi Lilli. You are an absolute dear to offer to make a button for my blog. What a generous soul to offer to do that even though you didn't know me. That speaks volumes about you and I hope we become good friends. I'm so sorry I didn't get by sooner but life has been hectic to say the least. But I want you to know how much I appreciate your kindness.

    I'm looking forward to coming back and visiting often. Your blog and your writings look very exciting. And I could really use some of that right now.

    Hugs....Tracy :)