Pacific Military Academy, Cheviot Hills Military
Academy, and Chaminade
Catholic High School

Culver City's founder, Harry H. Culver (1880-1946), established the Pacific Military Academy (PMA) in 1922 on Washington Boulevard in honor of his late father, National Guard General J. H. Culver.  (The junior Culver, who listed himself as “Colonel” in association with PMA, served as a sergeant in the Spanish American War.)  In 1925, PMA broke ground for its 10-acre campus on Cattaraugus Avenue, near Castle Heights , where Harry Culver and PMA vice-president Judge Benjamin Franklin Bledsoe lived.  Architect Harry H. Whitely 's $200,000 project opened in 1929. 
Aerial photograph (courtesy UCSB ) from July 18, 1928, showing Pacific Military Academy.  "Culver City" is on the roof beneath  P. M. A. – despite the building being located outside Culver City.
​During World War II, PMA served as a military barracks for the Army’s First Motion Picture Unit (FMPU), 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 during the war.  A film sequence, sometimes appearing on the History Channel, shows future President Ronald Reagan lining up for lunch outside the cafeteria.  In 1943, the Los Angeles Times reported that PMA had been granted a zoning variance to be converted into a hospital.
Harry Culver died in 1946, and from 1946 until 1952, PMA operated under Frank Brick’s ownership as the Cheviot Hills Military Academy. 

In 1952, the Marianist Order bought the land and established Chaminade High School for Boys at 9601  Cattaraugus Avenue.  “It is said that the buildings were severely rundown and the grounds resembled a jungle.”  The school's team name, the Eagles, can be traced to a tower at the school that featured an imposing Army Eagle emblem in tile, with the beak pointed toward the arrows as in wartime.  In 1961, with the campus' brick buildings deemed unsound, Chaminade moved to Canoga Park (now West Hills).
Father Ted Ley wrote in 2004 that Beverly Drive goes right through the center of what was the PMA campus.  “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 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.”

Aerial photograph (courtesy UCSB ) from July 1, 1956, showing Alexander Hamilton High School (lower left), Chaminade High School (upper right), and Castle Heights Elementary School (top right).  Cattaraugus Avenue connects the three.
Much of this article was written for the Spring 2006 Cheviot Hills Homeowners Association newsletter.  More recent (better?) sources are here:   Pacific Military Academy (Culver City Website), alumnus Dick Clark's   Cheviot Hills Military Academy website , and  Wikipedia's article on the Cheviot Hills Military Academy (which supplied  the 1952 photo at the top).