Harry Culver (founder of Culver City) opened the nearly eleven acre Pacific Military Academy (PMA) in 1929 in an area known as Cheviot Hills. Noted architect Wallace Neff designed this Florentine structure. Before World War II, Mickey Rooney attended PMA while under contract at nearby Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
During the War, PMA served as a military barracks for the Army's First Motion Picture Unit, formed in 1942 to produce training films, morale films, and propaganda films. Troops initially bivouacked in tents on the PMA athletic field, and the school was used for "top-secret photographic work." The troops worked at Fort Roach - the informal name given Culver City's Hal Roach Studios. A film sequence, sometimes appearing on the History Channel, shows future President Ronald Reagan lining up for lunch outside the cafeteria. Harry Culver died in 1946, and from 1946 until 1952 the school operated under Frank Brick's ownership as the Cheviot Hills Military Academy.
This picture was taken in the 1930s while the building was serving Pacific Military Academy.
In 1952, the Marianist Order bought the land and established Chaminade Catholic High School at 9601 Cattaraugus Avenue. Chaminade remained until 1961, when the property was sold to a real estate developer.
"It was in the 1940s that the district came to be called Cheviot Hills. The campus was only 10 1/2 acres, but originally it was surrounded by farm land, and all the way till PMA closed, it was possible to do horseback riding in the neighborhood. During World War II, two radio towers were constructed at the base of the campus. The architecture of the main building was impressive as were its 'hanging gardens' and overlook upon the playing field. The school boasted a swimming pool and a field house, in addition to the stable [built by CHMA] and two teachers' residence buildings. Several palm trees in the back of homes along Beverly Drive are the sole remaining vestiges of Pacific Military Academy and its successors."
In 1962, the buildings were demolished to make way for the construction of 41 private residences by James Pelton & Associates.
CHMA was bounded by Castle Heights (west) and Beverly Drive (east); Beverlywood (north) and Cattaraugus (south). Beverly Drive did not continue south from Beverly Hills during the early years. It now is situated on top of the long driveway approach to the military academy. That part of Beverly Drive went in during the development of the area in 1961.
In the spring of 1952 about the time I was to graduate, I heard about the sale. Needless to say, none of us were pleased. We realized that our home, in my case, of four years was to be abandoned. Some years later, I drove by the old location and was further disturbed to see that the building no longer existed and it was even difficult to try and determine where the property had actually been. Thomas Wolfe was right, you cannot go home again. This magnificent structure survived for only 33 years.
Looking at an aerial view of the property today, I have outlined the location of the original site.