Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

SPRR Saugus Train Station

Saugus, California

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The Saugus Café is still located inside the Southern Pacific Railroad's Saugus train station in this 1910 view — so we've got some "revisionist history" to do.

Seriously, we need to rewrite the history of the Saugus Café — and not just the parts about presidential visits that didn't happen. The standard account says the diner started as Tolfree's Eating House inside the Saugus Depot in 1887. (That's all correct except for the date; the depot wasn't built until June 1888.) The Tolfrees operated diners inside Southern Pacific train stations in Saugus, Bakersfield and Mojave, and they ran the restaurant inside the Nadeau Hotel in Los Angeles, which was L.A.'s first 4-story building.

The standard account says Richard Wood and his brother Martin took over the diner in January 1899 and changed the name to Saugus Café. Then the history goes haywire. It says Martin Wood moved the diner out of the depot and across the street to its own building in 1905.

According to Southern Pacific records, the diner moved out in 1916, and the depot was remodeled in 1917.

This 1910 photograph provides some corroboration. The sign extending perpendicularly from the diner windows reads "Dining Room," and the depot has not yet been remodeled, which it would have been if the diner had moved out five years earlier. In this photograph, the chimney at left is above the kitchen, and the chimney in the middle is at the back (south side) of the large restaurant room, which spanned the full width of the depot. (The chimney at right extends from the second-story living quarters of the train station agent and his family.)

Note that the kitchen and larder, which don't span the full width of the depot, are enclosed with lattice fencing. (Compare with this 1890s view.) In 1917, the lattice was removed, and this area was walled in and expanded to the full width of the depot to create the (current) freight room.

A hand-written notation on the back of this divided real-photo postcard reads, "1910 pop. 100" (a reference to Saugus' meager population). More tellingly, the Kruxo stamp box on the back appeared in this configuration only from 1908-1910. (A real-photo postcard is a type of photographic print with a short run; it wasn't mass-produced at a later date.) The photographer shot this image between 1908 and 1910.

Of course, neither the diner nor the depot are in this location today — the southwest corner of the current Drayton Street and Springbrook Avenue. The diner moved out in 1916, and the depot was spared from the proverbial bulldozer in 1980 when it was trucked to William S. Hart Park in the rival town of Newhall. Fifty years earlier, Saugus people would have been horrified.

Imagine how they'd feel about parts of both towns being renamed "Valencia."


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LW3787: 9600 dpi jpeg from original RPPC purchased 2020 by Leon Worden.
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