Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Mitchell Adobe Reconstruction Plans, 1986-1997.

Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society.

The original Mitchell Adobe was built as a home for Thomas and Martha Mitchell in 1860 on their ranch in Lost Canyon (today's Vista Canyon Ranch development). After the neighboring Lang family arrived in the Sulphur Springs area in 1870, Martha Mitchell taught school inside her adobe home for the local children.

The Mitchells built a wood-frame house and helped finance a proper Sulphur Springs school building in the 1880s, leaving the adobe to fall into ruin. Around 1919, Walter Murphy, a son-in-law of Thomas and Martha Mitchell, salvaged bricks from the original adobe and built a new, smaller structure nearby, as a home for Henry Thomas, an elderly friend of Thomas Mitchell. In the 1930s, this new structure was used by another family friend from Los Angeles who came to visit on weekends.

This latter structure, bulldozed by a developer in August 1986, is the one that was salvaged and reconstructed in the Heritage Junction section of William S. Hart Park.

Note: Some sources identify the 1919 occupant as the Mitchell Ranch foreman; this may or may not be correct. Also, some sources suggest the Sulphur Springs School District was established in 1872 and is the Santa Clarita Valley's oldest school district. This is incorrect. The Soledad School District in the Ravenna-Acton area formed in 1869. Also, as of this writing in 2020, no primary-source evidence has been found to corroborate the existence of the Sulphur Springs district earlier than 1879.

Documents Displayed Above.

(Starting Page)

(1) — Narrative history of the Mitchell Adobe. The initial handwritten entry (transcribed below) is perhaps the most accurate.

(8) — Historic architect's recommendations for reconstruction. (Also appears separately here.)

(11) — Detail from civil engineer's reconstruction plans. (Also appears separately here.)

(18) — Additional renderings by the SCVHS Restoration Committee.

(26) — Narrative documents relating to reconstruction.

(34) — Guidance for using adobe as a construction material.

(45) — Building permit and plans for further development of Mitchell Adobe site at Heritage Junction.

Summary: History of Mitchell Adobe

The following summarizes information obtained on 27 July 1987 in telephone conversations with Albert Mitchell (A.M.) and Richard Mitchell (R.M.), grandsons of Colonel Tom Mitchell, and with Jerry Reynolds (J.R.), curator, SCVHS.

The original adobe structure was built in 1860 (J.R.) by Colonel Tom Mitchell of adobe from a layer of clay found deep in a hand-dug well (R.M.). It was a rather larger building than what is left today (R.M.), approximately 45x60 ft. (A.M.). Lumber for the roof came from a mill in Papermill Canyon (A.M.), and it was covered by split-shake (A.M.) made from redwood shingles approximately 6x24 in., but very thin (R.M.).

Shortly after the Lang family arrived in the area, in 1870, the need for a school was recognized (J.R.). The first class was held in 1872 (J.R.), using only one room of the adobe (R.M.). Classes continued alternately in the adobe until the 1880s (R.M.). Even after the ranch house was built, only one room of the adobe was used for a school (R.M.). Land was donated and financing for a new school was provided by Tom Mitchell, John Lang and Sanford(?) Lyon (R.M.), the new school opening in 1885 (J.R.). After this date, the adobe ceased being used as a school (R.M.).

Early in the new century, probably in the period 1910-1920, the original adobe was disassembled (A.M., R.M.), and the present, one-room structure was built as a residence for Henry Thomas, an old employee of Colonel Mitchell (R.M.). He survived into his 90s (R.M.).

Somewhere in the 1930s(?), a Dr. Taylor, who was a family friend, was in the habit of visiting from Los Angeles on weekends. For his convenience, he built (or it was built for him) a wooden kitchen on the west side of the adobe (fireplace wall). There was no direct access between the two structures, although they were attached. One had to go out of the door of one and walk to the door of the other (R.M., preceding paragraph).

This attached kitchen is still visible in the 1960 photo (J.R.). Roofing on the one-room adobe structure was roofing paper with green gravel.


Questions remaining:

- construction date of ranch house

- footprints in adobe

- location of original adobe (1860)

- location of original Sulphur Springs School

- details of interior of 1910 adobe; of 1860 adobe

- reasons for structure of west (chimney) wall

/s/ Paul A. Kreutzer 7/28/87

SCV Historical Society project files. Download individual pages here.
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