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All that's left of the historic schoolhouse is in some roll-off bins.

All that’s left of the historic schoolhouse is in some roll-off bins.

What used to be the only remaining part of the 100-year-old, two-story wooden Newhall School building is gone, and Historical Society officers are none too happy.

According to a source familiar with the property at 24514 Kansas Street (next to Jimmy Dean’s on Lyons Avenue), the onetime schoolhouse was bulldozed within the last eight to 10 days.

It had just been sold in April for $500,000 to an entity called Kansas Street Partners LLC, whose agent is listed as James S. Backer, a local developer and chairman of the board of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The structure served as Newhall’s K-8 school from about 1914 to 1928, when it was supplanted with a new building at the current elementary school site on Walnut Street.

According to local oral history, the 1914-28 school building then was cut in two. One half became a private home (the one that was recently razed); the other half is long gone.

Mayor Laurene Weste finds flat earth Friday where the old schoolhouse used to be.

Mayor Laurene Weste finds flat earth Friday where the old schoolhouse used to be.

Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste, an SCV Historical Society board member, was upset to learn of the demolition and said she hadn’t been forewarned; nor had Historical Society President Alan Pollack. Had the society known, said Weste, it could have worked with the new property owner to move the relatively small structure – 924 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 1 bath – to Heritage Junction at Hart Park, where the group has saved several other buildings from bulldozers since 1980.

Weste and Duane Harte, a city Parks Commissioner who is also the society’s treasurer, said they had heard of possible development plans a few years ago, under a prior owner, but that nothing came of them.

Curiously, the property does not seem to have been included in any formal city list of “protected” historical properties. It’s not cited as a cultural resource in the city’s original 1991 General Plan or in the subsequent One Valley One Vision plan; nor is it on the “short list” of properties protected under a more recent City Council ordinance.

As of Friday, Google still shows a house on the property. It's not really there.

As of Friday, Google still shows a house on the property. It’s not really there.

It was Newhall’s third formal schoolhouse, consecutively. Modern Santa Clarita history generally gives 1914 as the first year the building was used as a school. A history of Newhall compiled in 1940 puts it a bit earlier, stating it was first used in 1911 after the tiny town outgrew the previous (second) Newhall School, which had been erected in 1890 at Walnut and 9th Street after the first one (from 1879) burned down.

Los Angeles County assessor records show a construction date of 1913 for the Kansas Street property, with an expansion in 1919.  It closed escrow for the last time April 30, 2014.

 

The writer is a member of the board of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society.

 

 

Newhall sixth graders line up for a class photo in 1919 in front of the school, which was split apart after it closed in 1928.

Newhall sixth graders line up for a class photo in 1919 in front of the school, which was split apart after it closed in 1928.

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85 Comments

  1. John Haynes John Haynes says:

    It’s too bad that so many have such little regard for old and historical buildings. Who are the new owners? If it’s a business maybe I can reward them with my lack of support…

  2. Shame that it wasn’t moved to Heritage Junction years ago!

  3. This will not stand.

  4. Bryan Dover Bryan Dover says:

    Wonder if they pulled a demolition permit with the City?

  5. Kim Sloan Kim Sloan says:

    How sad. Our little old town has been flattened and now 5,000 more homes going to be built, all while ruining the Santa Clara River. This building should have been saved but no one cared I guess and now it’s too late. Old Town Newhall has changed too. Thank goodness we have Hart Park & Heritage Junction or we would never know how these buildings really looked like.

  6. I can’t believe they actually demolished it!! Why couldn’t it be moved whole or taken apart and rebuilt somewhere? Meh!!!

  7. That’s terrible. I can’t believe the new owners didn’t want to have it relocated, restored or something. :(

  8. Just identified buyer (it’s in the story now)

  9. I used to walk past this building many times. I never knew it had been a school house. Today, we were walking home after the parade and I noticed the build was gone. Very sad.

  10. Well if the city wants these preserved they should add them to the list of historical building. You can’t blame the owner from bulldozing it if it wasn’t listed as a historical building. Sounds like the city needs to get its act together.

  11. Tommy Rini Tommy Rini says:

    Any moron would realize that the land was worth more than the structure. it wasn’t protected by any historical list, so the Builder did not have to give prior notice to demo. But that was my favorite house in Newhall and I think our community has suffered a loss but it also points out that the City Council really sorta has there heads up their butts when it comes to things like that. you can a green light five thousand homes(WTF) without wondering where the water is going to come from, but you have no desire to preserve the history that gave you the ability to do so. Like a dog chasing its tail all you’re doing is getting dizzy

  12. Julie Olsen Julie Olsen says:

    Oh my gosh that’s horrible ;(

  13. I THOUGHT THEY COULD NOT DO THAT IF WAS HISTORICAL BUILDING THEY ARE ALWAYS MOVING THEM THAT IS SAD WRONG AND I DON’T LIVE THERE ANY MORE BUT I DID GO TO SHOOL THERE AT WILLIAM S. HART THE BEST I THINK

  14. Lisa Dixon Lisa Dixon says:

    This makes me sad!!

  15. Greg Brown Greg Brown says:

    Happy Friggin’ 4th of July!

  16. No one even knew this school was there problly was in really bad shape to that’s why no one could stop it it till it was to late I do agree if a old building is in such bad shape and no one is willing to pay any $$$ to save it or fix it well then why can’t some one tear it down and put something there that people will use I mean if some one was willing to pay for it to be saved then that’s different but if its just sitting there getting worse over the years then well maybe its time for some one to put something people will use in the land

  17. alfredo loza says:

    I believe is the fault of City Council.

  18. Steve Petzold on your way back from the Tea Party meeting going to interfere with some private property rights?

  19. Stand down everyone. Everything is ok. A new digital ebillboard will be erected in its place.

  20. Love for history is dying out, friends. The dollar is most important. Thing is: we have to intervene quickly when word goes out that something like this may happen. I had no idea the Newhall school was there, let alone that it was sold and was in danger of being razed.

  21. Petz says:

    After all these years Tim still can’t recognize Petz subtle and sublime sense of humor. Look at the demo job in OTN opposite the front of the new library and tell me what our council thinks of structure demolition. Looks like Dresden 1945.

  22. Seriously, this is sad. It would have been nice to se the house moved.

  23. FYI, these real estate LLCs are usually owned by people far, far away, often even outside the US, who are so detached from small town or historical sentimentality that these kinds of complaints and considerations don’t even register on their yachts’ radars. They are far removed from these kinds of discussions. Compare it to the BBQ’d steaks you were having last night… compared to the voice of vegans. Think deaf ears. Regulation is the only defense.

    • Leon Worden Leon Worden says:

      David, re-read the story. It’s Jim Backer. Chairman of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce.

    • Yep, definitely local. From what I could find on this LLC, it looks like Backer created it for the purpose of development on this Kansas Street property (hence the name). “Kansas Street Partners, LLC” was incorporated January 31, 2014 for real estate development. Principal address given for this company is for JSB Development in Valencia which is Jim Backer’s company. Definitely a local company! He knew what he was doing. If he had notified the public, he risked the possibility of lawsuits & having to leave the structure on the property as-is and lose his money. It may be his right but he was so wrong.

  24. What the heck!!? Where was this? How could this happen? Are there not permits that have to be pulled to tear down? Where is the Historical Society? We live in a community that is proud of our history!! How sneaky of someone!! Just too sad & this make me angry

  25. Cathy says:

    The people in the city permit department had to have known about the demo. Shame on those employees for not alerting the mayor. All of the historic properties should be tagged as such. Yes, there is a preservation list of important structures. It’s these other historic structures, they should fall under a second list as “historic with reservations”. That way the community can be alerted to when demo permits are being obtained. With the help of the SCVHS, we can ALL work on a way to save them. Right now, it sounds like secret backroom dealings and kick backs taking place.

  26. Shawn Kortlander says:

    It might be time to list all other potential historical properties and notify the owners to contact the Historical Society prior to any substantial architectural work being done. I was under the impression the Building & Safety Department was notified or permits were required to bulldoze a property.

    • SCVNews.com says:

      The department you mention is the one that issues the permit. It does not notify the Historical Society or anyone else when a demo permit is pulled.

      • Shawn Kortlander says:

        If the Historical Society created and submitted a list to B&S, cross referencing could be done at the permit level.

        Thanks for your feedback!

        • SCVNews.com says:

          The list of about 150-200 properties was created by a city consultant. It’s called a “historic properties survey” or something like that. The City Council ordered it to be done a couple of years ago, in the initial stages of the recent historic preservation ordinance process. It was the “big list” that several property owners complained about when they found themselves on it. It was never put into force, but it is a good place to start. Can’t find a copy of that list right now, but the Kansas Street property was probably on it. But again, it was not put into any kind of force and thus has no official bearing.

  27. Debra says:

    This is an opportunity for us to get our act together and spend some time identifying what historic buildings still do exist in the Santa Clarita area, and move forward from now on, to protect them. The city of Santa Clarita, together with the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, could do this, quite effectively.
    Debra

  28. Leon Worden Leon Worden says:

    The city’s current historic preservation ordinance ended up being written in a way that cannot work. Previously, for a period of a few years, about 4 dozen properties were “protected” inasmuch as a red flag would have been sent up if somebody wanted to do something to them. (This school building wasn’t one of them.) But then, property owners pushed the City Council very strongly to remove their properties from that list. As a result, most properties were removed and we ended up with a list that includes almost nothing (maybe a dozen buildings, I forget the exact number.) The biggest problem is that if a building is not on that new, short list, you can kiss it goodbye because it’s not on any list that would flag it. What our historic preservation ordinance essentially says, in practice, is: These 11 (or however many) properties are important, and nothing else matters. And that is why our current historic preservation ordinance is broken and cannot work. HERE IS WHAT WE NEED TO DO: Write a new ordinance. Identify 200 or so historically interesting buildings & things (yes, there are that many in the city & unincorporated SCV, when you include mining sites, Indian signal trees, etc.) … and that ordinance should give the city/county/historical society “first right of refusal” to purchase and/or relocate the property, or LET IT GO. VERY simple. And in this city, where property owners are fearful of anyone infringing on their property rights, it is the ONLY THING THAT WOULD WORK. You could bog it down by trying to include Mills Act (tax break) incentives, but that might not work if the Mills Act has certain requirements that would be unacceptable to property owners in an ordinance. In practice, the BIGGEST THING a “first right of refusal” ordinance would do is put it on a list that the planning staffer at City Hall would have to check before he issues an over-the-counter demo permit. Right now it’s on no list, so there’s nothing to tell the planning staffer that it’s different from any other building.

  29. He’s the “agent of service,” but he could also be the owner. Be surprising if the owner’s a local though. Usually, these plumedgers live far away.

  30. What a shame, I always wanted to look in the windows but it was on private property. I am really sick of these developers and there legal trickery in getting around our historical society, the real victims of developer wrong doing besides the public!!

  31. What a shame, I always wanted to look in the windows but it was on private property. I am really sick of these developers and there legal trickery in getting around our historical society, the real victims of developer wrong doing besides the public!!

  32. Duane and Laurene need to get back on this bandwagon. Our historic homes are being destroyed. I’m still devastated with Tex Williams home. Jim Backer is an upstanding guy and works so hard with the Hart District. I’m sure he would have worked just as hard w/the Historical Society and the Newhall District IF we just had more info. The Historical Society needs some teeth!

  33. Duane and Laurene need to get back on this bandwagon. Our historic homes are being destroyed. I’m still devastated with Tex Williams home. Jim Backer is an upstanding guy and works so hard with the Hart District. I’m sure he would have worked just as hard w/the Historical Society and the Newhall District IF we just had more info. The Historical Society needs some teeth!

  34. Trina Roundy Trina Roundy says:

    So sad! A piece of history lost!

  35. Trina Roundy Trina Roundy says:

    So sad! A piece of history lost!

  36. I seen it when I was going to the parade, and was horrified.

  37. I seen it when I was going to the parade, and was horrified.

  38. What a shame! That makes me sad.

  39. What a shame! That makes me sad.

  40. Reminders of history help us make better decisions about the future. Sadly, there are few reminders in SoCal. We only value new and shiny here…with sparkles….

  41. Reminders of history help us make better decisions about the future. Sadly, there are few reminders in SoCal. We only value new and shiny here…with sparkles….

  42. Rob Gardner says:

    I saw this yesterday as I drove by and was shocked. Maybe this will help us get things back on track for the remaining properties around SCV. Does anyone have a “master” list of properties that “should” be on the list?

  43. What a shame and more will go if Bob Keller does not get on board!

  44. Anonymous says:

    It should have been protected. This should never have happened. I’m very saddened by this.

  45. Holly Nicol says:

    The house should have been protected. I’m very saddened by this loss to our community’s heritage.

  46. If it were Kern County, they would probably pour a concrete pillar with a nice plaque on top, ‘Site of Newhall School 1913.’

  47. Hey Leon Worden. Is that old jail at the library on the short list? Just curious if you happen to know. I know about the city and the owner fighting over it.

  48. Suzie Acosta Suzie Acosta says:

    I LOVED that house and that property. Makes me so sad

  49. That and a couple of other buildings. Thanks SCVTV. But now I wonder if the city has succeeded 7n taking it from the owner. We almost put something in there for business with him. @SCV_Network

  50. That and a couple of other buildings. Thanks SCVTV. But now I wonder if the city has succeeded 7n taking it from the owner. We almost put something in there for business with him. @SCV_Network

  51. Duane Harte says:

    It’s really nice to hear all the concern about losing this historic structure but with our new historic ordinance in place our hands have literally been tied. Too bad everyone commenting here didn’t come to the Council meeting with the members of the Historical Society when the ordinance was being crafted. We could have used the extra support in getting a good historical ordinance in place.

  52. How sad and scv is changing so much why not leave some history with it jeesh!

  53. glad i

    was a part of that generation

  54. As a member of the historical society I am very upset that no one told us this was going down!

  55. As a member of the historical society I am very upset that no one told us this was going down!

  56. Tim Palmer Tim Palmer says:

    I just looked up the info for this property. The owner is Kansas Street Partners LLC. It last sold on November 1, 2013 for $500,000.

  57. Tim Palmer Tim Palmer says:

    I can’t believe this property was not protected.

  58. Debra says:

    Reference to most recent comment by Leon Worden: Identifying what buildings are of historic significance, would be taking that first step toward the protection of historic sites. In itself, it may not accomplish anything, but proceeding with that information, would give us an opportunity to do something, if a situation like the one referenced in this article, were about to happen, again. We were able to save the buildings that are at Santa Clarita Valley Historic Junction today. I’d like to see more buildings that tell us about Santa Clarita History, saved.

    • SCVNews.com says:

      Right, Debra. Actually it has been done, and it has been done by the city (identifying what buildings are historic). What needs to happen next is for that list to have some sort of efficacy.

  59. RandyG says:

    Add to the list the grave site in the wash (lost canyon) in canyon country where Backer plans to build “Vista” Community (viewable on his jsbdev website). Early 1900s grave site with Mitchell family. No markings or anything.

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