Jan. 19, 1986: Aerial photograph of Valencia monogram ("hillside letters") west of Interstate 5 near McBean Parkway, where the Valencia Marketplace sits today.
CalArts is across the freeway at right (partially visible in gt8602a; just out of view in gt8602b). College of the Canyons is at top.
Hillside letters trace their roots to the first decade of the 1900s, when letters (usually the first letter of a town's name) started appearing on mountainsides above a town or university. The original hillside letter is believed to be the big "C" that appeared in 1905 on the hill overlooking Cal (UC Berkeley). The letters were typically fashioned from whitewashed or painted stones, or concrete. The Newhall Land and Farming Co., developer of Valencia, used the monogram to attract attention to its new-home communities.
In 1994, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved Newhall Land's request to build a 860,000-square-foot shopping center on 83.7 acres between The Old Road on the west and Interstate 5 on the east, to be known as the Valencia Marketplace. It was ultimately built to 720,000 square feet; construction started in 1995 and the monogram was removed. In 1998, Newhall Land sold the Valencia Marketplace to investor Samuel Mevorach for $111 million and used the proceeds to help fund the construction of Town Center Drive next to the Valencia Town Center mall, which had opened in 1992.
As the name implies, the Valencia Marketplace, like other Newhall Land developments, is in Valencia not Stevenson Ranch.
Stevenson Ranch is the name of the development east of The Old Road the line running diagonally in this photograph from the left edge to the bottom edge. (The road was later realigned.)
The Stevenson Ranch development site was purchased from Newhall Land in the early 1980s by Dale Poe Development Corp. of Agoura. In late 1985, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the first phase of 4,378 single-family homes, condominiums and apartments on 3,057 acres. Envisioned as an eventual 10,000-home community, construction started in 1988.
Poe didn't live to see the build-out. Dale Poe, 61, of Westlake Village, and his wife, Margaret, 55, died May 17, 1993, as a result of injuries they sustained when their 1990 BMW veered off of Highway 99 near Delano at 8:45 a.m. and smashed into a vacant building.
In 1996, Poe's heirs sold their interest in Stevenson Ranch to Florida-based home builder Lennar Corp. which gained a controlling interest in Newhall Land a few years later. Thus ended a 1990s rivalry between Valencia and Stevenson Ranch for home shoppers.
About the photographer: Photojournalist Gary Thornhill chronicled the history of the Santa Clarita Valley as it unfolded in the 1970s, '80s and '90s. From car races in Saugus to fatal car wrecks in Valencia; from topless beauty contests in Canyon Country to fires and floods in the various canyons; from city formation in 1987 to the Northridge earthquake in 1994 — Thornhill's photographs were published in The Los Angeles Times, The Newhall Signal, The Santa Clarita Valley Citizen newspaper, California Highway Patrolman magazine and elsewhere. He penned the occasional breaking news story for Signal and Citizen editors Scott and Ruth Newhall under the pseudonym of Victor Valencia, and he was the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff Station's very first volunteer — and only the second in the entire LASD. Thornhill retained the rights to the images he created; in 2012, he donated his SCV photographs to two nonprofit organizations — SCVTV and the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society — so that his work might continue to educate and inform the public.