If these walls could talk: 215 W. Jefferson


In our last installment of this “virtual” walk through Culver -- which began with the downtown area -- we strolled west on Jefferson Street, meandering further from what’s typically considered the downtown business district. However, there are now, and have been for much of the 20th century, several businesses along that corridor into Culver from the outside world.

Just across the alley to the west of our last stop (today’s CVS Pharmacy), we come to what current Culverites know of as Hammer’s Garage, at 215 W. Jefferson.

As far as we can ascertain, the earliest commercial use of the property seems to have been a creamery/dairy under the ownership of Henry Zechiel; we know this was the case by the early to mid-1920s, based among other sources on the recollections of his niece, Elisabeth (Zechiel) Davis, whose family helped provide the milk for the operation from the farm they worked a short ways west, just outside of town.

Marilyn Kelly rightly corrected me after our last installment, in which I wrote that the home located at the site of today’s CVS Pharmacy belonged to Jesse Zechiel, Elisabeth’s father, which was indeed incorrect. Instead, Henry Zechiel owned both the house where CVS sits today, and, conveniently enough for him, the dairy business next door. In fact, Marilyn, who lived just a few blocks north at the time, writes, “I well remember walking to the dairy with my empty quart jar and having it filled with milk and returning home to my mother.”

Back to Henry. According to Culver’s last milkman, Kenny Miller, Henry Zechiel actually started the dairy across the street to the north, at the little cinder block building which today is home to Northstar Plumbing and Heating’s storage, but that Mr. Zehiel wished to expand his business and so opened the building at 215.

Earlier this year in an interview with me, Elisabeth said, “The milk was the life’s blood of the Cloverleaf Dairy...Henry came out and picked up the milk every morning. He prepared it for bottles for the dairy. We got half the check.”

The dairy, one of several in operation in Culver during the first half of the 20th century, was known as the Cloverleaf Dairy. In March, 1930, the Culver Citizen reported that Alfred Kingery sold his interest in it to Emmett Cultice, and in August, 1941, it was noted the new Lake View Dairy (at the home of today’s Elizabeth’s Garden, at Plymouth and Jefferson Streets) would open Sept. 1, under the ownership of Harold Baker, previously associated with the Cloverleaf Dairy “for a number of years” (Henry Hinkle was named manager, then, of the Cloverleaf).

According to longtime Miller’s Dairy owner Kenny Miller (in a 2009 Citizen interview), Cloverleaf Dairy was sold through the years to a man named Kennedy, Don Grothaus and Don Liniger (from 1950 to 1954, according to the Citizen), followed by Pat Hallinan in the 1950s, who built a home and dairy building at 402 W. Cass Street (obviously moving it from 215 W. Jefferson), before the Kenny Miller himself bought the milk operation and home in 1964 (he would move it eventually to its final home on State Road 17, where even into the late 1970s the business was the “Miller’s Cloverleaf” Dairy.

By 1963, Jay Snyder had moved his Chevrolet business from 211 East Jefferson to 215 West Jefferson. A Culver High School grad and volunteer fireman here, Jay transitioned from working with his father at auto body repair at Synder Motors in Culver, to launching his own businesses in Culver and, later, Plymouth (he opened the Bargain Barn north of Plymouth after selling his businesses in 1986; he died in 2002).

Snyder Motor Sales occupied 215 W. Jefferson until 1977, when Snyder concentrated entirely on his Plymouth business and left Culver.
That same year, Otto H. (Mike) Lueth, Jr. opened the L & M Service Center at 215 W. Jefferson. He would also own and operate Plymouth Auto Service up to his retirement in 2005 (he died in 2010), though L & M continued on Jefferson Street at least into 1988.

This was briefly followed by Culver Feed & Garden Center, and then the A & D Mirror & Glass Company (later, D Mirror & Glass Glass).
215 W. Jefferson gained its Hammer’s identity after Larry Mahler (long employed at the Standard station, today’s Culver Express on Main Street) circa 1990 opened an auto repair business at 535 South Main, home of today’s ReMax Realty, and hired Ron James to work with him. In the early 1990s, Mahler purchased the building at 215, dubbing it Hammer’s Garage. It has remained the only in-town auto repair operation since. When Mahler died in July, 2010, Ron James continued the business, under the same name, as he does today.

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.