Sunday, December 19, 2010

Culver Hotel

The six-story Culver Hotel opened in early September of  1924. A celebratory crowd of 8000 attended the grand opening, according to the Los Angeles Times. The mayor of Culver City proclaimed a half-day holiday for city workers so that they could partake of free refreshments and dancing.

A combination of hotel and office building, the first two floors of the building were originally occupied by the Henry H. Culver Company, although a lobby was set aside for the use of the Hunt Hotel, which took up the other four floors. The hotel had 150 rooms and 50 single apartment units. AND EACH ROOM HAD A RADIO! Wowwee!

There is a rumor that the Culver Hotel was once a trysting place. Up to the late 1950s, supposedly a six-foot-high secret tunnel ran under Main Street from the old RKO Studio lot directly to the hotel, for the use of prostitutes and their partners.

Another rumor--this one on Wikipedia--says that Charlie Chaplin partnered with Mr. Culver in building the hotel. Not only that, but supposedly Chaplin lost his share of the building to John Wayne in a poker game. Now really.

Of course, the really wild stories revolve around the Culver Hotel's role as home to the 124 actors who played Munchkins during the filming of the Wizard of Oz in the late 1930s.

This picture shows a small display right outside the hotel's entrance. Here's a link to photos of "The Munchkins Return" on the Beyond the Rainbow site. In 1997, then-owner Rudy Hu hosted a get-together of the remaining Munchkins at the hotel.

Snopes debunks a recent rumor of a munchkin suicide on the set during the filming, and says that the stories of wild partying are exaggerated. Dunno. Apparently, during the reunion in 1997, the munchkins recorded their reminiscences for the local historical society. Bet that's an interesting tale!

The decades between the filming and the return were largely seedy ones for the hotel. It was allowed to deteriorate--along with the surrounding neighborhood--until a movement in the 1970s eventually led to urban renewal and rennovation. It's lovely now, though there never seems to be enough room in restaurants or lounge for the parties hosted there.


B Counter said...

The site of the Culver Hotel used to be the City Hall and a Theatre. See a nice Bison Archives 1918 photo on the Culver City website.

Thanks! I love your blog!

Vix said...

Very cool! Thank you so much!