If these walls could talk: 415 Lake Shore Drive

--“Culver History Corner” is a semi-regular feature sponsored by the Antiquarian and Historical Society of Culver (http://www.culverahs.com), whose quarterly newsletter is also sponsored in The Culver Citizen. --

After a long stay in the downtown and center/western portions of Culver, we're finally sauntering up Lake Shore Drive in our ongoing series of "virtual" trips around Culver's notable structures, past and present. This week, we hit the much-discussed 415 Lake Shore Drive, which -- depending on your tenure here -- may be known to readers as City Tavern/Diner, A&R Motors, McKessen Ford...well, the list goes on, but they're all names of the past. Today the property is owned by Scotty Van Hawk of Four Feathers Racing.

Our knowledge of the history of the space is pretty remarkably thorough, starting in the 19th century, when an item in the Culver City Herald in July, 1897, noted Nathaniel Gandy was retiring and had sold out his interests in the barns here to his partner, Abram Hayes of Hayes and Son livery (an article in April noted Hayes had moved his livery operation to the site, or "the barn near the depot" that month, though Hayes had not actually bought the land yet).

In those days, the address would have been Toner Avenue, where in May, 1897, it was reported that Hayes and Son were building a feed shed behind the building to accomodate at least 75 horses. A farmer could put his team under the shed, it was noted, for "a long time" for 10 or 15 cents (perhaps Scotty should take note of a lucrative business opportunity today!).

A July 26, 1901 article described the livery as"undoubtedly the largest and most modern in Marshall county," the main barn and its annex capable of housing 300 horses and sheltering at least 50 buggies and carriages!

But times would change. By spring of 1909, C. E . Hayes (the son) opened a "first-class auto livery and garage in Culver and will have cars here for demonstration purpose at that time if roads and weather are good. Mr. Hayes has taken the agency for the Auburn car and has already made one sale."

By 1914, D. W. Miller had taken on the livery and feed and oil and gasoline business at 415, though the Sanborn Garage & Livery was also listed as an occupant in 1914.

By the mid-1920s, Domincas "Min" Hatten operated the precursor to his Hatten Motor Sales (located at Lake Shore Drive and Ohio Street) out of 415 Lake Shore; sold were Chrysler and Plymouth vehicles, though when he first started, Chrysler autos were known as Maxwells (until 1925). Kelly's uncle Clifford Losier ran the Losier Taxi service, which eventually led to a line of transportation and tour buses outside Culver.

Hatten's daughter, Marilyn Kelly, told the Citizen in 2012 that her father had the east half of the building.

D.W. Miller -- the grandfather, on his mother's side, of current Culver resident Jim Weirick -- is listed as having run his business up to 1946, running a taxi stand at the site as well.

In May, 1937, an $8,000 fire damaged the building, ruining the bus belonging to Clifford Losier and damaging a county road truck; there was also loss to a roofing company operated by Frank Young young there at the time.

In July of that year, a Ford agency and garage owned by A.R. McKesson moved from East Jefferson Street to the building; by December, McKesson was installing new equipment in the garage to do fender and body repairs and painting. In Sept., 1955, the agency was taken over by Dick McClure of Winamac, who ran it until 1962, when Ray Wicker of Lowell, Indiana, opened Wicker Ford Sales there (McClure took over Jennings Motor, Inc., of Rochester). Eugene Scott, who had worked under McClure, was replaced by Wally Hyatt as Parts and Service Manager. Homer Kemple, salesman; and Charles Frain and John Cook, mechanics retained their positions under Wicker.

Ron and Connie Van Horn had started working under Wicker in 1964. In Nov., 1969, Van Horn bought the Ford business, his brothers Mike and Jon employed as mechanics (Jon eventually became a salesman). The Van Horns sold the operation in 1976, when it became Marshall Brothers Ford-Mercury Inc., though shortly thereafter, the Marshalls built a new building at the corner of US 31 and State Road 10, just outside of Argos, and transferred the business there.

By 1978, Ron Tanner had moved his A&R Motors dealership (which was listed at 104 Lake Shore Drive the previous year) to 415 Lake Shore Drive, though the business had wound down by the late 1980s.

For a time during the mid-to-late 1990s, the building served as temporary quarters for various entities, including Society National Bank in 1995, Guido's (a sandwich and pizza restaurant), and the Culver Public Library during renovation of its downtown building. Rosline and Donald Robarts were the building owners during this period.

Surely the best-known use of the building in recent years was its tenure, starting in the mid-2000s, under Larry and Jo Surrisi, initially as the City Tavern. A marked transformation of the interior of the building faciltated this change, which saw the return of Surrisi after his departure from the Edgewater Grille he had started in the 1990s. In 2007, the business became the City Diner, though the restaurant shut its doors in early 2011. The western end, of course, housed the main restaurant, while the center portion was home to the restaurant's banquet facilities.

By 2008, the deceptively spacious building also included Mirar Custom Homes & Renovations, east of the other facilities. Gladie's Deli moved from 108 N. Main Street to the far east end of 415 in 2011.