Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
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Saugus Community Club House
Saugus, California


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The Saugus Community Club was built in 1927 at what is now 23027 Drayton Street, a couple of blocks back from the SPRR Saugus Depot. A nonprofit corporation, the Community Club was a "woman's club" (as most were known), chartered by the California Federation of Women's Clubs.

The club purchased the property in late 1925 for an unknown price; the December 1925 edition of a federation newsletter (below) says the purchase "painfully lowered" the Saugus club's treasury.


Above: Grant deed from Roy and Catalina Baker to the Saugus Community Club, 1926. Courtesy of Don Ray. Click to enlarge.

Above: Grant deed from the Saugus Community Club to Claude and Gwendolen Gillespie, 1946. Courtesy of Don Ray. Click to enlarge.

Why the grant deed wasn't executed until a year later (on Nov. 29, 1926), and why it shows a purchase price of $10, is anyone's guess. The deed speaks to taxes being due for 1926-1927.

In any event, the club acquired the land from Roy A. and Catalina L. Baker, who sectioned off a piece of the Saugus ranch where they bred and sold Kentucky race horses and conducted an annual rodeo. (The Baker Ranch Rodeo parcel eventually became the Saugus Speedway.)

The new clubhouse hadn't been standing very long when the St. Francis Dam broke and sent its floodwaters down San Francisquito Canyon on March 12-13, 1928. Seven members of the Saugus club perished, and like other community buildings near the flood zone, the Saugus clubhouse was used as a Red Cross shelter where victims could receive food, clothing and a cot, as reported here.

The names of the seven victims were memorialized in a bronze plaque that hung at the clubhouse, and again on the first anniversary of the disaster, with trees dedicated in their honor on the clubhouse grounds.

The next two decades would bring significant change to Saugus, which once sported a downtown business district that rivaled Newhall's, complete with two-story hotels, restaurants, auto garages, the Saugus Café and the train depot. After 1934 the Saugus clubhouse sat in the shadow of Bermite Powder Co.'s predecessor, Halafax, which built its explosives plant on another section of the old Rancho San Francisco adjacent to the Baker Ranch property. By that time the Baker Ranch had been sold and resold and would end up insolvent before entrepreneur Bill Bonelli bought it. Bermite, on the other hand, was going gangbusters before and during World War II. Then Bonelli built the area's first post-war housing — not in the old downtown Saugus area but in Seco Canyon.

The Saugus Community Club probably disbanded at that time. It sold the clubhouse property on March 16, 1946 — for the price it had told the county it paid two decades earlier, $10 — to Claude E. and Gwendolen Gillespie, who converted the building into a four-bedroom family home.

According to St. Francis Dam historian Don Ray, who has interviewed Gillespie family members, the Gillespies had a daughter who attended the Saugus School. Her parents donated the 1928 plaque to the school, where it was placed along with a bell in front of the schoolhouse, which had been rebuilt in 1938 with partial funding from the Depression-era Works Project Administration.

According to Don Ray, the Gillespies lived in the Drayton Street home until their death in the 1980s, after which time it was abandoned. About 1984, vandals burned it down.

Today (2014), Los Angeles County Assessor records show a 1,112-square-foot, two-bedroom home on the 1.11-acre property with a built date of 1927, modified in 1934, as seen here. That's confusing, because the current structure does not have the same footprint as the Saugus Community Club House, for which those dates would apply.



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Saugus Community Club.

In a quiet and unpretentious way, the Saugus Community Club is doing a little each month. Last month a fraction over an acre of ground was bought and our club treasury was painfully lowered; but the mere surmising that upon that acre of ground a club building would sometime cast a shadow is spurring the members to greater activity to replenish the club's money chest, and plan for a future home. The dances that are frequently given are generously patronized, in fact everything sponsored by the club meets with the community's hearty approval.

News story courtesy of Tricia Lemon Putnam.



Building as utilized by Claude and Gwen Gillespie. Labeled by Don Ray based on information he obtained from the Gillespies' daughter, Andrea. Click to enlarge.



Source: Los Angeles County Assessor 2014


DR2701: 19200 dpi jpeg from smaller jpeg.
SAUGUS COMMUNITY CLUB

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Club House 1927-1946

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Dam Victim Members

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2014 x4

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