Blair Hills History
A Place Called Blair – Blair Hills, Subdivision, Culver City,
Submitted by James Blair BSGR member #801
Blair Hills was carved from a portion of
Rancho Rincon de los Bueyes, owned by the Higuera family. It was a part of the
Baldwin Hills, rich with oil fields.
Culver City was incorporated as 1.2 square miles in 1917, and the first property added was in 1921, which is referred to as Annexation # 2, the
Smith Annexation, in official city records. This addition brought the city to nearly two square miles, which included most of Blair Hills, with an
"island" of L.A. County, a practice that could not occur today. The "island" was not annexed until 1955.
By the early 1950s, the property already had a colorful history. La Cienega was not yet a street, and the area of Kenneth Hahn Park had been used as an Olympic Village in 1932. The major property owners were the Schultz family, Charlie Wright (hence the street name, Wrightcrest), Hetzler, Moynier (Moynier Lane), and a ten acre parcel owned by Will Rogers, Jr.
A shy Will Rogers Jr. was raised on his actor-father's Santa Monica ranch, played his father in movies, served in Congress, and worked in the newspaper business. Will Rogers' chauffeur had been a talented performer by the name of Ben Pitti (stage name Bennie Pete), who rode in Wild West shows, and who taught the three Rogers children to ride and rope. Rogers, Jr. and the Pittis remained friends, so it was natural in 1951, for Ben Pitti's sons, Carl and Paul, and their wives, to move to Rogers property to care for the horses and stables. Later, Ben and Ethel Pitti purchased Will Rogers Jr.'s property with their stunt man son, Carl, and his wife, Mickey. They chose a hillside acre to build Carl's family home, with Ben and Ethel remaining in the house below. Local master craftsman, Stan Stronks, built the new home on Wrightcrest.
Mickey said Carl framed the open "U" shaped
house from the outside to the middle with 12 and18 foot beams, and when he got
to the entry, it fit perfectly. They sold nine acres to Venice Blvd. developers,
Stone and Stone, who acquired additional property as well. Paul and Shirley
Pitti remained in town, to raise their family.
It is clear that the names of the streets
were meaningful to the developer, (Stoneview, Blairstone, Vicstone, etc.). In
fact, Blair Hills was named for a grandchild in the Stone family. In a 1971
document, former Chief Administrator for the City, Dale Jones, reported that
Blair Hills Park was
partially dedicated (the oil sump area) to the city by Edward Stone and subsequently the city purchased six more lots, totaling two acres.
From Paul Patti, long time Culver City resident, via article in July 16, 2004 issue of The Front Page newspaper:
The area now known as Blair Hills was annexed by Culver City when Will Rogers Jr., owner of a ranch in the Blair Hills, was the district’s Congressman. The Rogers ranch was in the hills. Mr. Patti’s father, Ben, a stuntman and trick rider, and his brother, Carl, purchased the Rogers ranch in 1951. Ben and Carl Petti trained actors and actresses in how to ride, rope, and handle guns, bows and arrows for Western movies that were being made at the time.
Westerns were staples, both on television and in motion picture theaters. The actors Robert Taylor, Glenn Ford, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Eleanor Parker were among the frequent visitors to the Petti Ranch. Among Carl Petti’s effects is a letter from Joan Crawford thanking him for his assistance on the climactic gun battle she fought with Mercedes McCambridge In the 1953 Nicholas Ray western, “Johnny Guitar.”
An extensive story in the Los Angeles Times in January 1952 told about one of the Petti horses being chased down Wrightcrest Drive, landing in an oil sump across the road for the Rogers’ house. The sump was a bottomless pit where oil, sand, and water were dumped from nearby exploratory wells. The newspaper account said it took five people and a tractor to pull the horse from the sump. Activism by Blair Hills neighbors in the early 1960s brought about Blair Hills Park, which is on the site of the old sump.
In 1953 Carl and Ben Petti worked almost exclusively with Will Rogers Jr. when he portrayed his father in the Warner Brothers bio-epic “The Will Rogers Story”. They worked with him again on a subsequent feature, “The Boy from Oklahoma”. Ben and Carl Petti sold the Blair Hills Ranch property in 1956. Ben died while the property was still in escrow. Carl and his wife moved to Hemet where he raised horses until his death in August of 2003.
From Lois Soter, and original resident of Blair Hills on Vicstone Court:
The majority of homes in Blair Hills were built by the Stone and Stone construction company. During their construction in the mid 1950s, the owner of the company named some of the streets: Vicstone, Stoneview, Blairstone [his granddaughter], Howardview [his son] and Lenawee [for his mother, Lena].
In 1955 twelve houses were built on Vicstone and three on Lenawee. Halloween weekend 15 families moved in with 29 children. Within a few weeks four more children were born (all girls). As there was a cement strike, no porches or sidewalks were put at that time. Only one family had a telephone, and that was because the father was a doctor. All others used a pay phone on the corner of Lenawee and Vicstone. This make-do situation continued until the cement strike was settled in early 1956.
Hills Neighborhood of Culver City, A Short History
by Submitted by Mim Shapiro, 1999
Located in the Baldwin Hills, west of La Cienega Boulevard and south of Rodeo Road and Jefferson Blvd, this area was part of the Rancho de Los Bueyes Land Grant. The hillside was the home of old ranches said to have been populated by Will Rogers family, the Carl Pitti family, Charles Wright, and the Hetzler family.
Prior to WWII, some lots were carved out of the upper hill for home sites. When the war began, these lots were left as they were. In the early 1950's, a developer, Stone & Stone, purchased the lower area of the hill from La Cienega west and proceeded to develop plans for a community of single family homes.
They originally applied to Los Angeles for annexation. However, as luck would have it, Los Angeles had a moratorium on sewer connections at that time, so the builder applied to Culver City. The development was accepted and that’s how Blair Hills became part of Culver City, despite the fact that there were then no contiguous boundaries with the City itself. The project was started on what is now Vicstone Court, proceeded up the western side of Lenawee Avenue around to Wrightcrest as the main access street into the area from La Cienega Boulevard Two additional streets, then called Girthview (now Blairstone) and Stoneview Drive were constructed.
The development was a country, rural environment in the midst of a big city urban surrounding. We enjoyed the ambience of hiking in the hills, jack rabbits, snakes, birds, and other small critters. Most of the new homeowners were young families with babies and young children, much like a small town. As the development progressed, two apartment structures were built (on variances of R1A zoning). The City fathers at the time were not too particular about planning and these variances and the resulting problems of parking on narrow streets with no sidewalks created the need for dialogue between the City and the budding community. This became especially urgent when the builders asked to extend their apartments further up the hill along Stoneview Drive (at that time a 30 foot street).
At a neighborhood meeting, the residents voted to form a non-profit neighborhood association. Our attorney neighbors compiled a charter application to the State of California with signatures of 81 charter members. The charter was issued on Dec. 5, 1958. An name for the neighborhood, Blair Hills, was voted in, and Officers and a Board of Directors were elected. By-laws were prepared and the Blair Hills Association was ready for action.
Our stated purposes were outlined: to promote the general welfare of our community; to promote, advance, and to protect the interests of the property owners of Blair Hills and adjacent areas; to encourage and promote cooperation, fellowship, better relations and good will among the persons residing in Blair Hills and adjacent areas; to aid in the development of good government; to gather information and evaluate same, and to disseminate accurate information regarding proposed legislation, candidates, and administrative actions deemed conducive to the well-being of our neighborhood.
Various problems of traffic circulation from adjacent areas through the neighborhood and zoning issues were given immediate attention. The Association served as an entity to jointly discuss and communicate our needs to City Hall.
We proposed possible solutions to various problems and were well received by the Council and the Culver City Police Department in cooperative efforts to solve these problems to the mutual satisfaction of all of us.
Over time, many Blair Hills residents became active participants in Culver City as volunteers, appointees to various committee and commission posts, and elected officials on the City Council and the Culver City School Board. We have enjoyed an active electorate, maintaining a high average of voter participation (usually the highest of any Culver City precinct). We were very pleased to be a part of the Culver City Unified School District which was distinctly superior to other nearby districts.
Negotiations were begun with the School District for establishing a local elementary school because there were over 200 young children in Blair Hills, and the temporary solution of bussing youngsters was not acceptable for the long term. The negotiations terminated in the acquisition by the School District of the parcel of land upon which is the Linda Vista School. It was opened for business in September, 1959. The interim PTA chapter which was affiliated with Lynwood Howe (Then Culver) School, was spun off into the Linda Vista PTA. It became an active and productive part of the PTA system at both the Council and State levels.
Concurrently, the need for a neighborhood park was negotiated for with the Culver City Council. This led to the City acquiring several lots on Stoneview Drive which had been used as a dump, oil sump, and for other trash purposes over a long period of time. Through very consistent and diligent efforts, it was cleaned, graded, and a park was designed. This enabled the children and adults in the neighborhood to be part of the excellent Culver City Parks and Recreation programs. Play equipment was chosen and installed, a ball field marked, a basketball court built. An excellent coaching staff at the park enabled our youngsters to successfully participate in all aspects of city-wide sports activities. Lots of trophies lined the shelves in our homes.
With the Blair Hills Association and the PTA, and many community activities, we had a very close-knit community in our little corner of the city. We advanced our cultural and civic activities with community forums, meet the candidate nights, and annual July 4th Picnics and Games. We had two dinner-dances each year for the adults at nearby establishments. The close friendships and extended family ties developed through the years have continued for years, spreading to the next generation. A great reunion picnic brought over 500 people together in our Park.
Many families who are original owners or second owners of the homes are still residing here and enjoying the diversity of good neighbors living in friendship and neighborliness. Young families have moved into the neighborhood and the cycle continues.
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