Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Militant's Epic Militant CicLAvia Tour XXIX!!!

For larger version of map, click here.

The first CicLAvia of 2019 is the earliest calendar date CicLAvia event and the second during the Winter season. And with a high temperature of 61 degrees, this will beat out the last CicLAvia in December in terms of coldest to date.

This is the 29th iteration of CicLAvia, with a 5.8-mile route that is a truncated version of the March 2017 "Culver City Meets Venice" course, and parts of which were also covered in the August 2015 and April 2013 open streets events.

You should know the drill by now, Share this link on your Facebooks, Twitters and Instagrams, visit the sights yourselves -- and if you do, use the hashtag, #EpicCicLAviaTourAnd here...we...go!

1. Site of King's Tropical Inn
5879 Washington Blvd, Culver City

The sight of this Byzantine domed structure will strike a chord in many older Angelenos. Established in 1925 by restaurateur John G. King, in the era before Zankou, Koo-Koo-Roo, Pioneer Chicken or even Knott's Chicken Dinners, this was the place for a chicken dinner in the Los Angeles area. King's wooden tropical-style hut burned down in a 1930 fire, but was replaced later that year by the familiar domed building that featured an exotic koi goldfish pond in the front. The Southern-style chicken and jumbo squab (that's roast pigeon) dinners were still legendary and the place remained popular through the 1940s and '50s. The restaurant closed down in the mid-1960s and was eventually repurposed as tire and auto body shop in the 1980s. It was demolished in 1994 following damage from the Northridge Earthquake. A Culver City historical marker is placed at the location and the archway of the modern shopping center at Washington and La Cienega pays architectural homage to the dome.

2. Syd Kronenthal Park
3459 McManus Ave, Culver City

This six-acre park on the northeast corner of El Ciudad de Culver is in a unique location: Los Angeles-adjacent, situated along the banks of Ballona Creek, it opened in 1940 as McManus Park where Pacific Electric Red Cars sped by for the next 13 years. In 1992 the park was re-named after longtime Culver City municipal employee "Uncle" Syd Kronenthal (1923-2015) who, during his 52-year tenure, helped develop the city's Recreation and Parks department and established 14 parks in the Heart of Screenland. Today, the park, just two blocks south of the CicLAvia route, is also accessible via the Expo Line Bike Path and the Ballona Creek Bike Path.

3. Hayden Tract
Area bounded by National Blvd, Ballona Creek, Higuera St and Hayden Ave, Culver City

This tell-tale set of architecturally-unique buildings makes up Culver City's Hayden Tract, a collection of offices, art galleries, design firms and entertainment and tech industry studios. What was once Culver City's oldest industrial district, architect Eric Owen Moss and developers Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith created the Hayden Tract in 1986 as a redevelopment project and economic development engine fueled by arts and design. The result is buildings known as "The Beehive," "The Stealth" and "The Umbrella," a dance studio known as Conjuntive Points, Moss' own design studio and one of Los Angeles' most innovative design centers.

4. Helms Bakery
8758 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles

From 1931 to 1969, Angelenos knew their bread, and it came from blue-and-yellow delivery trucks from the legendary Helms Bakery, founded at this site, with eventual satellite bakeries in Montebello and San Bernardino. It was the official bread of the 1932 Olympic Games here in Los Angeles, and the bread was so renowned, it was provided to the U.S. Olympic teams in subsequent Olympiads. It was even the first bread eaten on The Moon, as part of the Apollo 11 astronauts' food rations. But you couldn't buy the bread in any store, it was only from their delivery trucks (yes, the food truck craze is not new round here) with their tell-tale "TOOT! TOOT!" whistle. Ultimately, after an era where people bought food from delivery trucks, the Helms brand succumbed to the rise of the supermarket. This building and its trademark neon sign stand, adaptively reused, as a testament to its history and impact on Southern California. But everything old is new, and the Helms Bakery plans to re-open again!

5. Culver City Metro Expo Line Station/Site of Culver Junction
Venice and National boulevards, Culver City

You may or may not have arrived at CicLAvia via the Metro Expo Line, which is the modern reincarnation of the Pacific Electric Santa Monica Air Line. Not only can you experience Los Angeles' transportation present, but you're also in the clear presence of its past -- this area was also the site of Culver Junction, where not one, not two, but three Pacific Electric Red Car lines converged, going to Santa Monica, Venice and Redondo Beach. TIP: Make sure you buy a Day Pass or that your TAP card is well-loaded before CicLAvia, so you don't have to queue at the ticket machines! The Militant says "You're Welcome."

6. Ince Boulevard/The Culver Studios
Ince Blvd & Washington Ave, Culver City

As you make your first turn going westbound on the CicLAvia route, take note of the street name: Ince.

If you know your Culver City history, the town was a planned community built by landowner Harry H. Culver, a Spanish-American war veteran who worked for SFV pioneer Isaac N. Van Nuys and purchased a large section of the old Rancho La Ballona. In 1913 he established the town and filmmaker Thomas Ince moved his operation here from Pacific Palisades (via his Triangle Studios down the street -- more on this later...) and bought this section of land from Culver himself to establish the Ince Studio, which featured a large mansion fashioned after George Washington's Mt. Vernon residence, that remains in full view today. Ince's studio was sold to Cecil B. DeMille after his mysterious death and had changed hands and names over the years, finally adopting its current name of The Culver Studios in 1970. Legendary Hollywood films were shot this studio, including Gone With The WindKing KongE.T. and The Matrix.

7. Pacific Electric Ivy Substation
Venice and Culver boulevards, Palms

Downtown  Culver City is already rich in retail and artistic activity, and has a bevy of well-known eateries, like the popular Father's Office. The Militant can cover that in its own post (and kinda already did before). But welcoming people to Downtown Culver City along Venice Blvd (though technically located in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Palms), a block from the Culver City station is an appropriate link to the past - the Ivy Substation. The single-story Mission Revival-style structure served as a powerhouse for the Pacific Electric Railway from 1907 to 1953, when the Expo Line's predecessor, the Santa Monica Air Line, ceased operation. Today, it's a 99-seat venue for The Actor's Gang theatre company, renovated in the early 1990s. How interesting that a building originally built for transportation infrastructure was repurposed into a building for the arts, which in turn attract people using the new transportation infrastructure.

8. Culver Hotel
9400 Culver Blvd, Culver City

This 6-story triangular building, originally named Hotel Hunt, opened in 1924 as Culver City's first skyscraper (it was the tallest building between Downtown Los Angeles and Venice)  and housed Harry Culver's personal office on the second floor. Numerous Hollywood stars have stayed here, such as Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and Ronald Reagan, and most notably the little people actors who played the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz during its filming down the street. Actor John Wayne was one of the later owners, and it was fully restored in the 1990s.

9. The Washington Building
9718 W. Washington Blvd, Culver City

Culver City's other 1920s-era triangular building is just down the street from The Culver Hotel. Built by Charles E. Lindblade, a business associate of Harry Culver who also bears a city street name of his own, this Beaux Arts-style building was designed by Arthur D. Scholz and Orville L. Clark. As it is today, the building housed numerous retail and office businesses over the years, including the Culver City post office, the MGM Studios Fan Club and Lindblade's real estate company.

10. Kirk Douglas Theatre/Culver Theatre
9820 W Washington Blvd, Culver City

Built in 1946 as The Culver Theatre, a 1,100-seat Streamline Moderne cinema designed by Karl G. Moeller that screened 20th Century Fox films as part of the Fox West Coast Theatres chain.
It was later operated by the National General and Mann Pictures chains, and finally as an independent theatre. It was split into three screens circa 1970s, and closed in 1989. In 1994, it suffered damage from the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and underwent a major $8 million renovation later in the '90s, re-opening in 2004 as The Kirk Douglas Theatre (with Spartacus himself as a the major contributor in the renovation), operated by Center Theatre Group. It currently features two stages, one seating about 300 and a smaller stage seating around 100.

11. Sony Pictures Studios/MGM Studios
10202 West Washington Boulevard, Culver City

One can't mention Culver City without mentioning its massive movie lot, originally Thomas Ince's (remember him?) Triangle Studios operation until he moved to the Culver Studios property and sold this site to D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett.  In 1918, the studio was sold to Samuel Goldwyn, which became Metro Goldwyn Mayer in 1924 (following the merger of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Studios and Louis B. Mayer Productions). It became the Columbia Pictures studios in 1989 and Sony Pictures Studios from 1992 to the present. On this lot was filmed a countless list of Hollywood productions, most notably The Wizard of Oz in 1939 (you will be riding next to the actual Land of Oz, think about that...), and currently, TV shows like Jeopardy! and Wheel Of Fortune. Not to be outdone by Universal and Warner Brothers, but you can also take a tour of this studio lot (weekdays only).

If heading northwest along Motor Avenue, please skip to #21.

12. La Ballona Elementary School
10915 W Washington Blvd, Culver City

This local school is literally some old school Culver City right heah! Established in 1865, it's one of the oldest schools in Los Angeles County still in operation. Back in the day, it had an enrollment of 158 pupils between the ages of 5-15, being taught by one teacher, a Miss Craft who made $50 a month, and the school year lasted seven months, since it revolved around the agricultural calendar of the surrounding area.
When it was established, it was in an unincorporated area that eventually became Palms, which was annexed to the City of Los Angeles in 1914. When Culver City was founded the year before, it had no schools within its boundaries, so another school was built in the area in 1916. Eventually La Ballona was annexed into Culver City in 1920.

13. King Fahad Mosque
10980 Washington Boulevard, Culver City

This Islamic house of worship was built in 1995 as a gift from Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahad to serve the growing community of Muslims in the Westside, named after the king of Saudi Arabia at the time. Its facade features hand made marble tiles from Turkey, and a 72 foot-high minaret topped with a gold leaf crescent.

14. Tellefson Park/Rollerdrome Site
1105 W. Washington Pl, Culver City

There's a designated activity hub here at this 1.5-acre Culver City park, which was dedicated in 1976 as part of the U.S. Bicentennial celebrations. It was named after former Culver City councilman and city attorney Mike Tellefson, who served the city for 31 years. In 2013, the body of a suicide victim was discovered in the park.

But longtime Culver Citizens remember this site as a legendary roller skating rink called The Rollerdrome,  a wooden structure which opened in 1928 and had a characteristic rounded roof. Roller skating events were centered around the rink's organ, which was played by a live organist, and provided memorable evenings for local families and youths. It was torn down in 1970, which was a shame, since roller skating enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in the '70s.

15. Tito's Tacos
11222 Washington Pl, Culver City

Many Angelenos already know of this longtime Westside (American) taco joint known as Tito's Tacos, which as we all know, was founded in 1959 by a businessman who may or may not be an actual Mexican guy named Tito. Everyone has their opinion on Tito's, but three things are indisputable truths: 1) It's a Culver City Institution; 2) It's not authentic Mexican food and 3) People come here for the nostalgia anyway.

During the "Culver City Meets Venice" CicLAvia in August 2015, a minor controversy erupted when the restaurant's owner threatened to sue Culver City government for potential lost revenue due to the CicLAvia route, and everyone, including The Militant got all in on that, but ultimately, cooler heads prevailed, and after an intervention by the CicLAvia organization, Tito's Tacos warmed up to the route, and likely did a 180 once crowds queued up along their sidewalk service windows. Titogate 2015 was now history. All is good now, and Tito's is a mainstay of every Culver City CicLAvia. The moral of the story? Never fear CicLAvia, and a little communication and understanding goes a long way.

16. The Oval District/Palm Place
Area within Washington Place, McLaughlin Ave, Venice Blvd & Inglewood Blvd, Mar Vista

You might not see much from the street level, but this neighborhood just north of the CicLAvia route, a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone known as "The Oval District" is one of the first automobile-oriented property tract developments in Southern California.

When seen from a map or an aerial view. the streets of this 200-unit housing development of predominantly 1- and 2-story homes resembles an hourglass shape with an oval road in the center (which caught The Militant's eye and caused him to investigate the history of the place).

The 137-acre neighborhood was developed in 1912 by a Lillian Charnock Price (there is a "Charnock Road" two blocks north of Venice, BTW) who hired renowned landscape architect and urban planner Wilber David Cook, Jr. (who worked for legendary late 19th/early20th-century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to design an "Aristocratic Suburb" marketed as “Palm Place."

The large-sized lots were unique, and park-like in their large setback from the street and the palm tree-lined parkways, but only a small number of homes were built. Price sold the development to Robert Sheman, who was the stepson of Moses Sherman, the developer of the Los Angeles and Pacific Railway, which built the original rail line on nearby Venice Boulevard. What was originally intended to be the first car-oriented development was going to be a transit-oriented development!

But those didn't sell either. The lots were still too large and pricey. So Sherman sold it to a financier group that marketed it as "Marshall Manor" in 1920 and interest began to pick up. But it wasn't until after World War II, when suburbanization was in vogue and Los Angeles' Westside development boom commenced, that the rest of the lots got built.

17. Mar Vista Hill (a.k.a. The 'Mar Vista' in Mar Vista)
Centinela Ave & Rose Ave, Mar Vista

Everyone know that "Mar Vista" is EspaƱol for "sea view." But riding along Centinela or Venice during CicLAvia, you can't even see the sea. Where is it?

Well, The Militant will tell you where to see the "Mar Vista" in Mar Vista. He implores you to take a short detour from the CicLAvia route and continue north along Centinela Avenue, switch your gears (or pedal harder, you fixie heads), and go up the hill (Mar Vista Hill) until you reach Rose Avenue. Then turn right and go  up the hill to the open space that contains the baseball field and community garden. Look to the west, stand on top of the telephone poles laying on the ground in front of the small parking lot, and you can have a semi-unobstructed (damn you, DWP power lines!) view of Santa Monica Bay from the Palos Verdes peninsula to the Santa Monica Mountains.

Mar Vista Hill is a 203-foot-above-sea-level promontory that was once a garbage dump, and was later the site of the Venice Reservoir in 1940 (smart, huh). The reservoir was decommissioned in the 1960s and replaced with the baseball fields you see today.

So come on up to Mar Vista Hill, where you can see the sea, to see all that you can see!

Go visit Mar Vista Hill and tweet a pic of the ocean with the hashtag #EpicCicLAviaTour!

18. State Route CA 187
Venice Boulevard between Lincoln Blvd and the 10 Freeway

You may or may not know that Venice Boulevard, in addition to being a two-time CicLAvia route, was also a Pacific Electric Red Car line, but did you know it's also a designated California State Highway? In 1964, CalTrans designated State Route 187 starting at the Pacific Ocean. In 1994, it was shortened to the 5.4 miles from Lincoln Boulevard to the 10 Freeway. The number "187" also happens to be a reference to the California Penal Code designation for murder, which is most likely why a young, '90s-era, pre-commercialized Snoop Dogg is standing by the sign in this photo.

19. Mario's Brothers Market
12904 Venice Blvd, Mar Vista

No deep history behind this neighborhood Mexican corner market on Venice and Beethoven, but the name caught The Militant's eye. He's seen some of you CicLAvians ride in CicLAvia in Mario/Nintendo cosplay, so this would be a perfect photo/selfie opportunity.

While you're here, support the business and buy something inside. Maybe it really is owned by a Mario. Or a Luigi. Ask where The Princess is. If they're successful enough, they might move to a larger location and rename themselves "Super Mario's Brothers." Tweet a pic of yourself (or your group) in front of Mario's Brothers with the hashtag "#EpicCicLAviaTour"!

20. Venice High School
13000 Venice Blvd, Venice

Venice's namesake secondary school was one of three on-location sites for Rydell High in the 1978 motion picture Greaseand was the school scene in the Britney Spears video for her debut hit, "...Baby One More Time." The main Moderne-style school buildings, built in 1935-37  were designed by local architects John C. Austin and Frederick M. Ashley, who also designed the Griffith Observatory. The campus is also famous for its statue of legendary Hollywood actress and famous alumna Myrna Loy at the front of the school. Other famous alumni include Beau Bridges, Crispin Glover, the late Ivory Queen of Soul, Teena Marie and In-N-Out Burger founder Harry Snyder. Go Gondoliers!

Motor Avenue Branch:21. Digital Imaging Center
10354 Venice Blvd, Culver City

Not historic, but this is The Militant's go-to place for making physical prints of his digital photographs. Nice folks, nice prices and quick service!

22. The Original Location of Versailles Cuban Restaurant
10319 Venice Blvd, Palms

Home of their legendary garlic chicken and black beans, among other menu items, this restaurant was founded at this location by Cuban immigrant Orlando Garcia in 1981 after opening a restaurant called El Rincon Criollo near Downtown Los Angeles in the late 1970s. So why is does an iconic Cuban restaurant bear the name of a historic palace in France? Originally to be named "El Rincon Criollo #2," it was named "Versailles" at the urging of his son and current owner William Garcia, who recalls visiting a fishing village called Versailles during his youth with his father, and stayed at Miami's Versailles hotel after his own wedding. And during his honeymoon, the cruise ship's dining room was also called Versailles. So his geographical leitmotif won out. The restaurant, now a local chain, eventually grew to five locations, but three (including locations in Encino and near Beverly Hills) operate today.

23. The Guy on Motor and Venice
3771 Motor Ave, Palms

While waiting for his digital prints at Digital Imaging Center and after shopping for the latest camo threads at The Surplus Store across the street, The Militant stumbled on this rather random, eclectic and interesting thrift/antique store, which, depending on your tastes and interests, is either The Most Awesome Place Evar or a total P.O.S.  -- you decide. The guy is one Rick Lamb, who has run this place since 2002 and donates the proceeds of his sales to the organization Friends of Animals.

24. Iman Cultural Center
3376 Motor Ave, Palms

This cultural center, school and house of worship for Los Angeles' Iranian American Shia Muslim community, most of which live in the Westside. Unlike the immigrants from Iran who identify as Persians (who are mostly Jewish) or other Muslims (who are mostly Sunni Muslims, the majority sect of Islam that has had a 1,387-year tiff with the Shiites) this minority-within-a-minority community holds this venue in high regard. And it's expected to be kickin' in a few weeks when it hosts the Nowruz, or Persian New Year festival on March 21.

25. The National Bend
National Blvd & Rose Avenue, Palms

Whatup with National Boulevard? It is perhaps one of the most perplexing throughfares in all of Los Angeles with its constant, excessive twists, turns and bends. But alas, our Freeway Culture is to blame: Before the late 1950s, National was a somewhat more straightforward street but was consequently chopped up and made into a crooked mess due to the construction of the Santa Monica Freeway. This sharp turn near Rose Avenue features an eclectic, multicultural array of restaurants, markets and shops usually not found in the Westside, such as the Simpang Asia Indonesian market, Madre Oaxacan Restaurant, Hu's Szechuan Restaurant, The Vegan Joint, and just around the corner, Mama's Pizza and the Irish Times pub. The Militant covered this curious corner back in 2007.

See you or not see you on the streets this Sunday! Low chance of rain in the morning, but always remember - THE SUN ALWAYS SHINES ON CICLAVIA! Happy CicLAvia!