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Culver was not always Culver! The town, once named "Geneva", was "Union Town" by 1844, and became "Marmont" for many years before the 1896 change to "Culver City" (later, of course, just "Culver"), a change that reflected the impact of H.H. Culver's boys' school on the shores of Lake Maxinkuckee.
The page below presents images and information from the days before Culver was Culver, mostly from the "Marmont" era of the mid to late 1800s. John Houghton, whose family helped settle the area, has written in some detail about the settlement and early years of the area. Please see his articles below, which lay out the history of Culver and its development.
John Houghton's Articles on the Settling of Culver:
|Early Images of the Area:|
The Eli Parker Residence and Store, 1881.
The "Founders' Government" of Marmont in 1881, including the Plummers and the Voreises.
John Houghton on the image at left: "The view of the farm, with the inset pictures, shows my great-great-grandfather, Thomas Houghton, with his third wife (I believe), and their farm on road 17, just across from the Three Sisters (now that watercraft place) -- the house burned down in the early seventies, as I remember, and my cousin finally took down the barns and such over the course of the last couple of years in order to have easier farming. This farm has always been outside the city limits, of course."
Now, as to their connection with Marmont...Thomas was a boy pioneer, having come up here with his parents at the original settlement. His father, James Houghton, was born in the village of Swanwick, in the parish of Titchfield, County of Hampshire, in south-central England, in this house. James came to the US after his older brother John had already settled here, and the brothers and their families came north to the newly-opening Marshall County together. This was a bit confusing, as John also had a son named Thomas. Luckily, Thomas son of John had a middle name. So he is Thomas K., his first cousin (the one in the picture) is just plain Thomas. Without going into a lot of genealogical details, Thomas K. also had a sister, Emma, who, in 1843, married a fellow named Bayless Dickson. John (father of Thomas K. and Emma) was the school commissioner, and when Township 32, Section 16 (where the town is located) was put up for sale in 1839 (the proceeds to support the school), Bayless bought the western quarter of it, 150.42 acres. The north-west corner of the strip Bayless purchased was at 17th Rd. and Thorn Rd. (aka School Street); the southwest corner half a block west of Main, and two lots--about 132 feet, I guess--north of Marmont, where School St. would intersect if it came straight south. The eastern edge was the eastern side of Harding Court--which would be the property line of the Lutheran Church, if it came through to Academy Road. This 150 acres passed hands a couple of times: Bayless deeded it back to John in 1845, who then in 1853 passed all of it except the south forty acres to Emma. Then in 1865, Emma sold the remaining chunk, except for 10 acres she had earlier sold to Franklin Shirley, to her cousin Thomas (no K, my direct ancestor). This chunk abutted land Thomas had acquired from his first wife, Nancy Mitchell. The reason for the separation of the south forty acres from the rest of the property was that Bayless had, in 1844, established Union Town in the western half of that part, with the town's southwestern corner at the southwest corner of his original 150 acre purchase. (The original plan in 1839 had been to put a town in the "east end," from Coolidge to the north-south part of Lakeshore Drive, and from College down to the lake itself.) Union Town had two north-south streets, today's Main and Plymouth, and five cross streets, the current Lake Shore Drive [originally Scott], Cass, Washington, Jefferson, Madison. It extended a block north of Lake Shore Drive (thus the dead-end streets next to the funeral home), a block south of Madison, half a block west of Main, and, north of Madison, half a block east of Plymouth. (Knapp's addition to Marmont and the Vandalia Addition to Union Town respected the half-blocks on the east side of Plymouth Street, producing Lake Street; A. B. Harris's addition to Culver added new lots right up against the back side of the Plymouth Street half-block, producing the jog intersection of Washington and Lake, and the long block from Jefferson and Plymouth down to the lake. In 1851--McDonald 1908, 126, says 1857, but is pretty clearly wrong, as one of the documents he quotes indicates--the south forty went to Emma's brother, Thomas K., who had the town resurveyed. It was at that point, too, that the name was changed to Marmont. Dr. G. A. Durr, who proposed the change of name, was, on an 1872 plat map (the earliest one I could find in Plymouth), the owner of almost all the lots between Marmont and the lake. I can't tell from anything I have here at home whether he already owned that land in 1851, but if he did, it might explain why his opinion carried so much weight. (Note, too, that on 126, McDonald perpetuates the confusion about what happened in 1895: the post office was named just "Culver," but the town itself was named "Culver City," and the "City" wasn't legally dropped until September 5, 1949).
The Hotel Colonnade was located just north of the Vandalia depot in Culver. Sadly, it burned to the ground in 1899. Mark Roeder's details on the Colonnade here.
A rare business card advertising the Hotel Colonade.
A business card advertising the Kreuzberger Park Restaurant, a saloon that was built -- according to Roeder's History -- in 1894. The building, one of the oldest and most prominent in Culver, still stands at the west end of the Town Park, a large brick building on top the hill. In its heyday, Roeder notes that the saloon had a bowling alley, billiards, and "fancy ladies." It also had an extensive park as part of its property, much of which is the Town Park today. As Marmont became Culver City in 1895, this business card presumably dates from around 1894. More info here.
An 1895 image of the Vandalia Depot when Culver was "Marmont." The Hotel Colonnade can be seen in the background. This image comes from an Agricultural Fair program provided by the Culver Antiquarian & Historical Society. The whole program may be seen here.
Vandalia Railroad Grounds, an 1895 image from the days when Culver was "Marmont." This image comes from an Agricultural Fair program provided by the Culver Antiquarian & Historical Society. The whole program may be seen here.
A portion of a rare map and text containing an incorporation statement for the town of Marmont, which would shortly become Culver City. The map and accompanying text are dated Feb. 3, 1894.
Residence of L.T. Vanschoiack, Marmont, 1881 (note Lake Maxinkuckee in the background).
An 1881 map of Marmont.
A wonderful artifact (and one of the oldest in this collection) in the form of an 1889 bulletin from the Culver Park Assembly. Much of Culver's early history is related to the Assembly, which was started by H.H. Culver, founder of the Culver Academy, as an early, experimental venture (it is often known today as "the Tabernacle" for the place the meetings were often held). Culver abandoned the project after a few years, and little remains of it today. Click the image above to view the entire bulletin, which contains some fascinating glimpses of the area at the time. Thanks to Culver's Antiquarian and Historical Society for the use of this item.
The Maxenkuckee Agricultural Fair 1895 - a rare book published when Culver was still Marmont, worth a look just for the advertisements alone, lent to the library by Culver's Antiquarian and Historical Society.
Above: The front cover of the January 25, 1895 edition of the Marmont Herald, not long before Marmont would change its name to Culver, and the paper to the Culver City Herald. One of the more interesting headlines pertains to the harvest of "ice for millions."
Above: A glance at the back cover of the January 25, 1895 Marmont Herald, chock full of advertisements for local businesses of the day.
Other Marmont Images:
An 1895 image of the Bay View Place from the days when Culver was "Marmont." This image is taken from an 1895 Maxinkuckee Agricultural Fair program, chock full of fascinating images and info, supplied by the Antiquarian & Historical Society of Culver. Click here to see the entire booklet.
Jim Moss of East Shore Drive owns one of the properties that made up Bay View Place. Today, the area is broken into three lots, 920, 950, and 964 East Shore Drive. According to Mr. Moss, 920 East Shore, owned by the Perkins family today, was once what was known locally as the "zinc house" (a house made out of zinc!); 950 East Shore is owned by Mr. Moss himself, and 964 East Shore is today owned by Jim Moss' daughter's family, the Kellys.
Mark A. Roeder's Culver history book (read the entire writeup here) reports that the Bay View Hotel was a popular operation during the late 1800s, the Culver Herald newspaper describing it as one of the most popular on the lake in 1896 and having over 100 guests on a given weekend (apparently it had 44 rooms or so). The Bay View closed in 1898 and was converted into separate cottages in 1899, though Roeder reports that it was still in operation in some form more than twenty years later. In 1950, a new cottage was built on the site, which had been divided into the three separate lots that make it up today.
This fascinating view of Vandalia Park (again from John Cleveland's collection) is presumably a bit later than the one to the left, as the school-shaped structure appears to be completed and even has vines growing on its walls. Note the development of buildings behind the Depot on what is today Lake Shore Drive.
One of two fascinating panoramic views of Vandalia Park from the Cleveland collection, this one -- in light of the early incarnation of the Depot -- sometime before 1920, though exact date is unknown. At least one building behind the Depot appears to be still remaining on Lake Shore Drive in more recent years. Any details about the school-shaped wooden structure in the park or other information would be welcome!
An 1891 photo from the John Cleveland collection depicting the posting of a bill advertising an "annual excursion" from Valparaiso to "Lake Maxenkuckee" in 1891! A fascinating look at the life of Culver many, many years ago!
Another image from John Cleveland's photos, this one showing the Depot marked -- upon close examination -- "Marmont." Assuming the sign was changed on time, this would date the picture before the 1895 name-change of the town of Marmont to Culver. Again, the area behind the Depot is revealing for how different it was from today's Lake Shore Drive area.
The "Meyer Park Summer Garden" as depicted in an 1895 Marmont (once the name of the town of Culver) Agricultural Fair program provided by Culver's Antiquarian and Historical Society (click here to read the entire program). Can anyone identify the location of this photo?