Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Fire-damaged Star Oil House to be Demolished
City Point of Historic Interest | 24148 Pine St., Newhall


The "history" in the following story was based primarily on information in the city record (above). That information was provided to the city by local historians prior to 1991. Soon after the city agenda report and the following story below were published, giant holes were drilled through the historical record.

The structures at 24148 Pine Street date to the first and early second quarters of the 20th Century and were actually the homes of the Cesena family. For the time being, none of the history presented below should be considered factual. Once we've made the necessary changes and corrections, we'll remove this message.

Destroyed by Fire, Historic Star Oil House to be Razed

And then there were seven.

The burned-out shell of a historic house in Newhall will be cleared away once the Santa Clarita City Council gives the go-ahead Tuesday.

Built about 1878 in Pico Canyon as a guest house for oil field executives and moved to Newhall early in the last century, the so-called Star Oil House was destroyed by fire Nov. 2, 2014.

Someone inside the vacant house knocked over a candle. Flames ripped through the roof and gutted much of the small wooden building.

One of only eight structures outside of William S. Hart Park to have been deemed historically significant by the City Council in 2013, the house was a total loss. The fire destroyed its structural integrity and with it, its historic value. City officials "red tagged" the building Nov. 4 and secured it to keep people out.

The property owner, whose family has owned it since about 1940, offered to donate the property to the city, for which he would receive a tax write-off.

On Tuesday the City Council will consider receiving a donation of the property at 24148 Pine Street (east of the railroad tracks between 4th and 5th streets). It will also consider removing its historic designation and authorizing the demolition of the house and two other small structures on the 12,240-square-foot property.

Then the city will have the option to build on the property or sell it. It's zoned for residential development (which it has been all along) or low-intensity non-residential development such as a day care center or restaurant.

Exactly when the Star Oil House was moved from Pico Canyon to Newhall is unknown. Assessor records show two dwellings on the property: an 856-square-foot 2-plus-1 with a construction date of 1929; and a 732-square-foot 1-plus-1 with a construction date of 1934 and a remodel date of 1939. One of those is the historic house. The third structure on the property is a small storage shed.

The Star Oil House was historically significant not so much for its design — a vernacular wood-frame building — but rather for the history that walked through its front door and slept under its medium-pitch, side-gable roof.

It was built as a company house of California Star Oil Works, the outfit that hired Charles Mentry to drill wells in Pico Canyon. Mentry put the Santa Clarita Valley on the map in 1876 when he brought in California's first commercially successful oil well. The petroleum industry would prove to be a major employer of Newhall townsfolk for decades.

George Washington didn't sleep there, but Demetrius G. Scofield did. He was the company president and one of the early believers in the potential of oil — not for gasoline (there were no automobiles then), but to light lamps. Petroleum was better and more plentiful than whale oil (not to mention less brutal). Scofield became the first president of Standard Oil Co. of California when John D. Rockefeller bought him out in 1900.

The Star Oil House in 2009.

Charles N. Felton slept there, too; he was a major financier and ran the other company in Pico Canyon, Pacific Coast Oil. Felton was elected to Congress in 1885 and became one of California's U.S. senators in 1891.

Lyman Stewart, who had a place of his own in Newhall in 1878 (now one of the historic homes in Hart Park), is believed to have slept there, as well. By 1890 Pico was getting crowded so Stewart moved to Santa Paula and founded the Union Oil Co.

In 1915, when the oil boom in Pico Canyon was over, Standard Oil Co. sold the house to longtime employee Josh Woolridge, who moved it to its present location in Newhall.

An official survey from 2009 terms it "a rare example of a property related to early settlement and oil discovery in Santa Clarita."

After the fire, it's officially "a visual blight on the community and a threat to public health and safety."

And soon, just a faded memory.

Above and below: Google Street View of 24148 Pine Street, December 2011. Click images to enlarge.

ex-24158 Pine Street

House & Office ~1962

24148 Demolition (Not Star Oil House)

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