Plans for the first Newhall jail were hatched in 1888, when the County of Los Angeles decided to give
constable John Howe — the local law since 1878 — a place to lock up prisoners. The jail was going to be
built on a plot of county-owned land at the end of modern-day Arch Street near Newhall Creek. But Newhall train station
master John T. Gifford didn't take too kindly to the idea of prisoners being housed next door to his family home,
so he bought a parcel at 1026 Spruce Street for $68 and talked the county into swapping the land. Gifford was financially
the loser, but his peace of mind apparently outweighed his cost.
Side view shows original construction (middle) and later additions, as well as proximity to the Old Town Newhall Library. Photo 2/22/2020. Click to enlarge.
John H. Castleman submitted a bid for the construction of the jail in September, 1888. Castleman made two proposals:
he could build a wooden, two-cell jailhouse measuring 12' by 20' for $236.25 (including $123.75 worth of lumber and
$5 worth of iron bars), or a slightly larger 13' by 22' structure for $248. It is not known which bid was accepted or
how big that first jailhouse was. In fact, there is some confusion as to whether the jail was built at all.
According to county records, Gifford didn't sign the Spruce Street property over to the county until December 22, 1905.
Whether it would replace the old jail or be built for the first time, a new jail was put to bid in January 1906. Bids were
advertised in the Los Angeles Daily Journal and the Contractor and Builder. On January 31 Gifford's grant
deed was recorded, and on February 20, a bid from a Mr. H.C. Register was accepted in the amount of $2,237. In 18 short years,
the price had gone up 10 times.
Architectural plans, drawn by Hudson & Munsell of Los Angeles, called for the construction of a concrete building
with a 1/4-inch thick steel door covering. Construction was competed by May, 1906, when the windows were covered with heavy screens and
the interior walls were whitewashed. Repairs to the building were done as early as September of that same year, and on numerous occasions
thereafter, with work orders signed by constables W. Ed Pardee, Martin Cruzon and Carl Sischo. The building was appraised for the first time
in 1929 at a sum of $2,000.
Records from the Newhall Sheriff's Station (Substation No. 6) indicate that the jail housed an estimated
250 prisoners between January and October of 1939, after which time the jail was no longer used, and the cells which had been
added onto the Sheriff's substation in 1928 were used instead. The jailhouse and lot were sold sometime after 1939 and were used
for various commercial purposes in the decades that followed.
Information compiled by Estelle Foley for the
Santa Clarita Sheriff's 70th Anniversary Celebration.