The hallowed grounds at the corner of Market and Walnut Streets in Newhall hold a lot of history.
The house that was built there around 1888 was once home to 1920 Presidential candidate Henry Clay Needham. It served as a telephone exchange during the St. Francis Dam disaster in 1928, was a Good Templar’s Lodge during Prohibition, was the site of the first Boys and Girls Club in town and the home of the Newhall-Valencia Chamber of Commerce (which later became the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce).
The house moved down the street to Heritage Junction in 1992, but the history didn’t stop. The triangle-shaped parcel is now the Historic Veterans Plaza, where flags of every branch of the Armed Forces fly in tribute to the hundreds of service members commemorated in bricks lining the sidewalks.
A brass sculpture of a musician stands at the point of the park and story stations describing more than two centuries of wars and conflicts that involved Americans are placed along the path.
With its rich historical past, it seemed fitting to place 15 bricks commemorating another phase of the area’s history; the establishment of the City of Santa Clarita and honoring the individuals who made those first plans 22 years ago.
Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste presided over the ceremonies, which involved speeches and certificates and much picture-taking. Being honored were the first City Council, the first Planning Commission and the first Parks Commission and most of the players on that first critical team were there for the party.
Buck McKeon, who was the top vote-getter in the 1987 election that brought about cityhood, was the city’s first Mayor. Now representing the 25th Congressional District, he reminisced about the first ordinance – one protecting oak trees and a close call he had with some trimming done in his front yard just hours before the city council meeting.
He also smiled a lot describing how he looks at the city.
“When I drive down Canyon Country and I see the grass on the side of the road, I can say ‘I helped do that,'” he said. “And when I see a few of the red busses left,” pausing for the crowd’s laughter. “I remember I was the one who wanted red busses.”
Of the original City Council members, only Jan Heidt was unable to attend. A few took their turns at the podium – Dennis Koontz, Carl Boyer speaking about how far the city has come and how much local control has improved the area.
Following the council, Weste talked about some of the people who had passed away since their terms of service – Planning Commissioner Jeanette Sharar and Parks Commissioners Louis Brathwaite and Todd Longshore. The families of Brathwaite and Longshore were there and were given certificates commemorating their family member’s service.
Former Planning Commissioners Rita Garasi and Connie Worden-Roberts spoke, as did former Parks Commissioners Mike Lyons and Jeff Wheeler. Weste smiled broadly when she reminisced about her appointment to the parks commission in the early days.
A film compiling oral histories is being worked on, evidenced by the video cameras following the founding “family” of the city after the bricks were dedicated.