Santa Clarita Valley, The (Then and Now)
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Born in 1987 as the nations first new city with a population greater than 100,000, Santa Clarita, California, has a fascinating history that stretches back to the rugged Wild West era. Hollywood recreates this history in Santa Clarita and its surrounding valley, to the delight of movie fans worldwide.
as a cattle ranch for the friars. After Mexican independence, the area became the 48,000-acre Rancho San Francisco, owned by the Del Valle family. Gold was discovered here in 1842, which predated the more famous strike at Northern California’s Sutter’s Mill by six years. Unlike its northern counterpart, the SCV’s gold discovery created no noticeable “rush” and was largely overlooked by the press. Americans took control of the valley after the land grab known as the Mexican-American War, which
resulted in statehood for California in 1850. The valley’s strategic location made it a vital transportation link between the cities and pueblos of Northern and Southern California. During the Civil War, Edward F. Beale deepened a previously dug pathway between the SCV and the San Fernando Valley to 90 feet. It became known as Beale’s Cut and was used for cattle drives and as a pathway for wagons and stagecoaches for decades. Auctioneer and railroad speculator Henry Mayo Newhall later bought
boom of fans swarming to Southern California hoping to see the sites that modeled for locations in the story. One was reportedly Rancho Camulos at the valley’s western end. The novel was later brought to film in 1910 by D.W. Griffith, who used Rancho Camulos as a backdrop. Dozens of other filmmakers arrived in the area over the coming decades, mostly to make Westerns. The Santa Clarita Valley became such a popular filming site that Newhall earned the nickname “Newhallywood.” Several stars,
following year, Mentry drilled the CSO No. 4 well, the first commercially successful oil well in the West. Mentry died in 1900 from typhoid fever. The Pioneer Oil Refinery, located on Pine Street in Newhall, was the first successful oil refinery in the West and is the oldest surviving refinery in the world. Completed in August 1876, the refinery produced benzene and illuminating oil for ships, railroads, factories, and mines for 12 years. Ownership of the abandoned refinery eventually passed to
Fernando Road and Eighth Street, became the Bank of America in 1931. It was here in November 1940 that Newhall resident and Western film star William S. Hart deeded the property for the American Theatre to the American Legion Post No. 507. The American Theatre was the first movie house in the SCV. The old bank building is now occupied by a church. It rarely snows in Newhall, but here is proof that it happened at least once in 1931. A Willys-Knight automobile sits in front of what appears to be a