Unidentified child waves from the signal tree (aka marker tree) at today's 24940 Pico Canyon Road, Stevenson Ranch, in this undated photograph (probably 1930s) from the
Charles Sitzman Collection. The view is to the north.
In an audiotaped interview from December 20, 1996, transcribed by local historian Stan Walker, Barbara Sitzman decribes the photo as "Four trunk oak tree down near the mouth of the canyon."
The idea that it was a "four trunk" tree was ingrained in people's minds because that is how "Ripley's Believe it Or Not!" described it in its July 28, 1930, feature, complete with
an artist's sketch showing four trunks.
The trouble is, the sketch and the description were wrong. The tree had one trunk — which split, perhaps giving the appearance of two separate trunks — when two upper branches were
affixed to the ground by local indigenous people centuries earlier as a directional marker, probably pointing the way to the Pico Springs, a source of asphaltum. (Over time, one of the two tied-down branches fell away.)
When it was built in 2000, the Extended Stay America hotel was required to preserve the marker tree and another nearby heritage oak tree and work around them — which is why the hotel has
the has a footprint that accommodates a small oak grove.
SZ3602: 9600 dpi jpeg from original photograph. Also catalogued as 213-ms-0006-116.jpg. Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society collection.