Castle Heights

In 1922, the first lots in what is today broadly considered Cheviot Hills were offered for sale as "Castle Heights."  They were situated along Castle Avenue and the hills above it, south of the 107-acre California Country Club .  In the years to come, what is popularly called Castle Heights would include several more subdivisions and resubdivisions, and the Castle Heights area would be called (with varying degrees of accuracy) Culver City , Los Angeles, Cheviot Hills, Monte-Mar Vista, and Shelby Heights.  

In September 17, 1912, S. C. Graham recorded a 96-lot subdivision ( Tract 721 ) of Lot 1 of Francisco Higuera's 1880 subdivision of Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes.  Graham's tract map showed only one street, Castle Avenue, running its length.  (Weeks before, on August 23, 1912, Abraham & Frankie King  recorded Tract 1938 , another subdivision of Higuera's Lot 1; that tract was not developed until 1924, when it was resubdivided and marketed as " Cheviot Hills .") 

On February 18, 1920, J. W. Calvert established the 21-lot Tract 3494 subdivision along Club Drive, the driveway to the California Country Club.  It was between the Country Club and Graham's Tract 721.  Calvert's northernmost lots were quite large – so large in fact that on May 15, 1924, two lots (17 and 18) were resubdivided into thirteen with Tract 7194 .  (The Tract 7194 owner was shown as Citizens Trust and Savings.) 

On May 12, 1924, Tract 7195 resubdivided all but a few lots in the southeast corner of Graham's Tract 721.  The Tract 7195 owners included Cornelis and Lottie Donker, after whom Donker Avenue was apparently named, plus:  E. T. & Carrie A. Wynn, H. C. & Agnes Seymour, Philip Gresham, H. M. Elwood, Emil Shostrom, Joseph J. & Kathryn L. Mathe, Lura M. Davidson, Louise E. & Emma Polfer, Ernest A. Bertrand, George M. Gay, J. Ness Porter, Epifana Layana, Margaret M. Titus, S. C. Graham, W. T. Armstrong, Charles L. Wynn, George Riopel, and Melvin & Vera May Hall.

On September 2, 1927, Tract 7790 resubdivided lots 4-16 of Calvert's Tract 3494.  The owners signed off:  Citizens Trust and Savings Bank, Pacific-Southwest Trust & Savings Bank, Clarence M. & Jennie Maude Knox, Benjamin F.  & Katharine Bledsoe, H. C. & Agnes Seymour, George L. & Catherine Smith, Harry H. & Lillian Culver, Josephine R. Spencer, and a number of others whose names are indecipherable on the document.

On May 16, 1923 (before the above-noted resubdivisions) the Castle Heights area was added to the City of Los Angeles as part of the Ambassador Addition .  The lots fronting on the east side of (then) Castle Avenue were included, but not the area east of them:  "Arnaz" was a 93-acre island of unincorporated Los Angeles County land named for an earlier landowner, Don José de Arnaz.  On July 26, 1949, the Arnaz Addition added " 93 acres and 2400 citizens" after "the citizens of Arnaz voted 489 to 101 to become part of Los Angeles ."

The final "Castle Heights" tract was recorded on September 5, 1952, by Gordon V. & Bailey Rhea Provoncha, Paul W. & Constance C. Hornaday, and Ruth Shepard Hunstock.  Tract 17327 set out 21 lots along Provon Lane between Shelby Drive and Castle Heights Avenue and south of the lots on Donker/Vicar – resubdividing most of the December 3, 1900, " Replat of a Portion of Southworth & Williams’ Extension of the Palm City Tract ."  Several lots remain within that "Replat" description.

Today, Castle Heights is not within the Cheviot Hills Homeowners' Association , the Beverlywood Homes Association , or the California Country Club Homes Association .  Instead, it has the Castle Heights Neighborhood Association , "a volunteer non-legal entity comprised of and organized for the residents of Castle Heights."
S.C. Graham's September 17, 1912, Tract 721 , showing Castle Avenue.
September 17, 1922, advertisement from Los Angeles Times.  The map shows Castle Street,"but "street" and "avenue" were often interchanged in those days.   
The May 12, 1924, Tract 7195 map shows most of Castle Avenue as Fontana Avenue.  The remaining portion of Castle Avenue and all of Fontana Avenue would be renamed Castle Heights Avenue on September 26, 1924.  Ivy Street became Kincardine Avenue on March 5, 1931, and Donker Avenue became Vicar Street on July 22, 1938.
The "upper Castle Heights" map on the left shows Calvert's Tract 3494 , as subdivided on February 20, 1920.  On the right is Tract 7194 as resubdivided on May 15, 1924.  Harry H. Culver's 3205 Shelby Drive mansion was on (at least) Lot 17 of the earlier tract; the address is lot 8 of the later tract.
August 29, 1926, Los Angeles Times advertisement for house to be auctioned at 3132 Castle Heights Avenue "in the City of Los Angeles."  It also says, it is a "hillside home" "adjoining California Country Club,"  and "in the highest class residential section of Culver City."  Despite the note at the bottom ("Castle Heights Ave. has been ordered extended to meet with Beverly Dr. at Pico St.") Castle Heights Avenue was not extended to Pico Boulevard until the Arnaz Ranch gave way to Beverlywood in the 1940s.  (See 1937 aerial photo lower on this page.)
The February 26, 1928, Los Angeles Times advertised for auction "The Exquisite Home of Mr. and Mrs. H. C. Seymour in the exclusive Castle Heights District."  Mr. Seymour was a realtor and chairman of the board of governors of Santa Monica's Ocean View Beach Club , which he promoted in 1926. 

The advertisement stated that the Seymours' lot "adjoins the aristocratic homes of Hon. Benj. F. Bledsoe, Harry H. Culver and numerous others."  Judge Bledsoe (1877-1938) resigned his federal judgeship to run (unsuccessfully) for Mayor of Los Angeles; H. C. Seymour was his campaign committee president Harry H. Culver (1880-1946) was the founder and a developer of Culver City.  His Castle Heights home (pictured at the top of this page and described below) was the most magnificent ever built in the Cheviot Hills neighborhood.

The Seymour house, described as a “pretentious 2-story Morocco Spanish home … in the center of a large triangular lot which has a double frontage of approximately ½ acre," was later home to crooner Vic Damone .  It remains at 3114 Club Drive, at the corner of Shelby Drive.
Harry Culver’s house, with its “three acres of lawn and gardens” at “3205 Shelby Drive, Monte Mar Vista” was advertised for auction in 1934.  It was described as a “palatial 24-room mansion,” designed by “noted architect Wallace Neff, ”  with a $25,000 pipe organ, gymnasium, Turkish bath, 8-car garage and stables.  (The house, pictured at the top of this page courtesy of the Culver City Historical Society , was later demolished.)  It stood across the street from the California Country Club that Harry Culver had founded and up the hill from his Pacific Military Academy .  His neighbor, Judge Bledsoe, was the Academy's vice-president.
September 14, 1937, Fairchild Aerial Surveys photograph (for Paramount Pictures) with Castle Heights in center below California Country Club.  The black street across the middle is Castle Heights Avenue.  The white (concrete) street above it is Shelby Drive; both intersect National Boulevard to the left.  The Cheviot Hills tract is in upper left; Monte-Mar Vista in upper right; Pacific Military Academy in Center right; and Alexander Hamilton High School  (with its track and football field) is at bottom right.  (Photo courtesy UCSB Library Aerial Photography Collection .)
Zoomed-in view of September 14, 1937, Fairchild Aerial Surveys photograph (for Paramount Pictures) with Harry Culver's former Castle Heights home at center.  (Photo courtesy UCSB Library Aerial Photography Collection .) 
Other Castle Heights homes (or their contents) were auctioned during the Great Depression, both before and after Mr. Culver's.  On November 6, 1933, the "twelve-room Swiss Home" at 3260 Club Drive, "Shelby Heights" would be offered at auction .  In January 1937, the eight-room English home and furnishings of Mrs. Josephine Cherry were to be sold .  And, in March 1937, the furnishings, paintings, Persian Rugs, and Kimball piano in  the home of Lillian Kaye Bacon at 3244 Club Drive in "Shelby Heights" were  advertised for auction .  The auctioneer noted it was built and furnished by Harry Culver and formerly occupied by  vaudevillian, comedian, actor, and Three Stooges creator  Ted Healy .  

Streetlight typical of "upper" Castle Heights.