Santa Clarita wasn’t always the bustling, suburban sprawl we know today.
If a person was asked to describe Santa Clarita with a series of pictures, what would they show? Perhaps the red tower presiding over Six Flags Magic Mountain, or maybe the varying levels of concrete freeway that weave through each other near the I-5/14 split. To an outsider, this may offer just enough of a glimpse into our daily lives to garner some understanding of our unique identity.
But in a time before ours, this community looked, and acted much different.
Today we take a virtual stroll through our valley as you have never seen it before, thanks to www.SCVhistory.com, which has preserved photographs of our town from the late 1800’s through today.
The website also hosts an immense number of texts, which describe pieces of history back much further.
Leon Worden, who operates www.SCVhistory.com says that there are historical reasons why Santa Clarita ended up the way it has.
“Take something as simple as roads…why is I-5 where it is? Well, if you look back 80 or 90 years, you’ll see that the very first automobiles were traversing roads that are pretty much in the same place. Why there? Because those are the old wagon roads. Why were the old wagon roads there? Because the early explorers were following Indian foot paths,” said Worden.
Let’s start our picture tour with one of our area’s most cherished artifacts, the Oak of the Golden Dream. While some would have you believe that gold was discovered in northern California, it was actually discovered right here in Santa Clarita, underneath an oak tree that still stands .
Many people think that old town Newhall, located near the vicinity of Main Street, is as old as Santa Clarita gets, but take a look at what that area looked like in 1879 .
Newhall was the official town’s center point, where goods and services could be found, much like this grand hotel which used to operate near where the Metrolink station is today.
With all the tract housing these days, it’s hard to get a real glimpse into our position among the land. In this late 1800’s photo , you can see how majestic our surroundings really are.
To us, the Metrolink trains offer a stress-free commute outside of this valley, but one hundred years ago trains played a much bigger role in everyday life. As this photo shows, the Newhall train depot was a fully functioning facility.
And preserved at Heritage Junction for all to see today is the old Saugus train station, pictured here in its prime.
With several of our elementary school districts over 100 years old, it’s obvious that education has always been a priority in Santa Clarita. Here’s a look at the first Newhall School , built in 1879, followed by the second Newhall School , built to replace the first one. Why replace the school? Keep reading below…
There is one thing that hasn’t changed in over 100 years of existence in Santa Clarita; fires. The first Newhall School burned to the ground in 1890, and the second fell to flames in 1914. The District built a third school nearby, and then moved it to its current location in 1928, where it promptly burned down again in 1939 . Luckily, the 4th time it was built, it stayed put.
Fires also scathed large portions of Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch Movie Town in Placerita Canyon.
New schools started to pop up as the SCV grew, including Hart High school, which opened in 1946.
In the early 60’s the school even got a visit from someone who would become very, very important.
Remember the big red tower we still use today to describe Magic Mountain and our town? Here it is under construction .
And who can forget Valencia. Breaking ground in the area of master planning, Newhall Land and Farm literally built Valencia from the ground up. But did you know that the original plans did not include spacious single family residences, but instead large residential towers? Check this out.
Worden offers a good explanation as to why this particular plan was not put into place, and why it is already inspiring future development. Hear what he had to say on this matter in the podcast below.
Also interesting are architect Victor Gruen’s plans for a future Valencia Town Center. This artistic rendering was (obviously) completed in the early 1960’s.
According to Worden, these pictures and the much more complete accounts online at www.scvhistory.com only scratch the surface of the history in our valley.
“That’s probably only about 1/10th of the photographs and stuff that the SCV Historical Society has on hand,” he said.
For now, we at KHTS urge you to continue the journey into our past. Because before you know it, it may be our grandchildren looking back wondering things like “Why were so many houses only one story tall?” and “How did people get over mountains before cars could fly?”