Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

66. New Town

The moribund Newhall Land and Farming Company had experienced a series of ups and downs over the years, liquidating some of its assets. On Aug. 27, 1933, Atholl McBean was elected company president and called in expert consultants and managers to galvanize the corporation into a producing concern. The discovery of oil on company property two years later opened new horizons.

McBean, married to Margaret A. Newhall, served nearly three decades as president and then became chairman of the board. For the first time a non-family member, George Bushnell, moved into the president's seat.

Between 1965 and 1967 a right-of-way for Interstate 5 was sold to the state, and the California Land Company was created to develop a new, master-planned community on the eastern four thousand acres of ranch property.

The architectural and urban planning firm of Victor Gruen Associates was hired to carve a whole town out of cattle pastures and onion fields. Like Athena of Greek myth, it would spring up fully grown with an industrial complex, civic center, parks and schools in place. It was to be called Valencia.

The new community was born on Sunday, August 20, 1967. Named for the Spanish town of ancient Moorish splendors, its inaugural day was highlighted by a ceremonial and utterly symbolic passing of title from the king of Spain through Franciscan missionaries to the Mexican government, to Don Antonio del Valle, to Henry Mayo Newhall, and thence to the new owners.

Old-time residents were astounded to learn that "flatlanders" from over the hill were willing to stand in line to lay out twenty-five thousand dollars for a house.

The new Valencians were not exactly moving to "the sticks," but the semi-rural setting was strong attraction. Interstate 5 was nearly complete, making access to San Fernando and Los Angeles easy. The Old Orchard shopping center was two years old, as was the championship golf course laid out by Robert Trent Jones. Development of an industrial park in Rye Canyon was at hand, and rumors of a major man-made lake at Castaic — part of the State Water Project — were turning into reality.

At the same time, at the other end of the valley, a conglomeration of tract homes and shopping centers in the Soledad were on their way to becoming the largest settlement in the region. Early movers and shakers included Dr. Everett Phillips, a dentist who invested heavily in property, and Cliffie Stone, a well-known western entertainer. Dr. Phillips lured Ken and Anne Lynch out to sagebrush country, where they established a lumber yard in 1955.

The next year the Mint Canyon Chamber of Commerce was formed, largely because of Arthur W. Evans, who proved to be the catalyst to get things moving. Evans pursued a varied career, serving as a Santa Barbara police officer, forest ranger and rancher. He was three times honorary mayor and twice president of the Mint Canyon Chamber, and in November of 1963 — a month after he started up the Santa Clarita Sentinel newspaper — he headed the first in a long series of Frontier Days celebrations.

The Mint Canyon Chamber, like the community it served, changed its name to "Canyon Country." On July 1, 1995 its successor unified with the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce.

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