How did a tiny farming town “way out in the country” become one of Southern California’s top bedroom communities?

Henry Mayo Newhall

Henry Mayo Newhall

It goes without saying that Santa Clarita is a great place to live. Those who move here marvel at the diversity and quality of housing, schools, commuter access, and things to do. Hardly a transient town, many residents have spent their whole lives in this valley, and those who move here rarely move away…unless they have to.

The Santa Clarita Valley has come a long way since its humble beginnings as little more than a railway stop in the late 19th century, when Henry Mayo Newhall leased a throughway for the Southern Pacific Railroad for one dollar a year. He was a visionary, and foresaw big things for “Little Santa Clara (English translation for the Spanish name of “Santa Clarita”, thus named by early Spanish settlers who thought the Santa Clarita Valley looked a lot like the Santa Clara valley in Northern California).

Newhall met an untimely death in 1882 after being thrown from a horse. In the wake of his passing, his surviving family founded the Newhall Land and Farming Co. to oversee the development of the valley they now inherited.

For many years, the population of Newhall and Saugus were very small as most of what is now prime residential real estate was zoned for farming. As late as 1940, the entire valley’s population stood at only 4,000. It was not until after World War II that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors saw opportunities for greater tax revenue from returning GI’s looking for a place to live. They decided to rezone much of the farm land for “highest and best use” , designating land parcels as “residential”. This paved the way for visionary housing developers to take advantage of the new tax codes in the valley, and over the next half century, a new era was ushered in.

The first Santa Clarita developments.

To be clear, there were houses and neighborhoods that were not part of a farm in the Santa Clarita Valley prior to World War II. Take a drive through the older sections of Newhall (East of Newhall Avenue) and you’ll see some of the oldest neighborhoods in town. What you will find is a variety of classic housing styles on various sized lots.

The first actual housing development in Santa Clarita are what are now commonly referred to as the Bonelli Homes in Saugus, just off of Seco Canyon West of Bouquet Canyon. Originally called “Santa Clarita Homes”, entrepreneur and Santa Clarita resident William Bonelli began the project initially with only 15 lots, and expanded from there. The Bonelli Homes are still there, and very popular with home buyers due to their classic ranch-style architecture and large lots.

In 1961, the North Oaks Lower development began construction in Canyon Country, north of Soledad Canyon off of White’s Canyon. These homes were simple in design and affordable, and are still very much a desirable neighborhood for entry level home buyers and investors.

Newhall Land & Farming and the Valencia Project.

Paseo in Old Orchard-Valencia CA

Paseo in Old Orchard

Newhall Land & Farming Co. joined the housing development party a little later in the game. While developments by other entrepreneurs were being planned in areas of Saugus and Canyon Country, the area we now know as Valencia did not yet exist. Newhall Land took development to a whole new level when they began designing a “master planned community” that would include stylish but affordable housing that would attract growing families to the area. Valencia would also contain a paseo pedestrian system so that children and adults could avoid walking on the streets while traveling to schools or walking to parks and shopping. Coinciding with the construction of the Interstate 5 freeway through the Newhall Pass, the first Valencia development known as Old Orchard broke ground in 1967.

Since then, Santa Clarita has grown to its current population of just under 200,000 people, with housing developments continuing to cover the landscape of the valley. Newhall Land is continuing its commitment to housing development, having recently opened The Villages of Valencia. Plans for the Newhall Ranch project (West of interstate 5 going out to the Ventura County line) are in the works to begin construction within the next few years.

Want to learn more about the Santa Clarita Valley and housing options? Contact Montemayor & Associates at either of the numbers listed above, or by filling out the Quick Response form below.

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I had specific needs for my new home. Brandon was very patient with my unique situation and flexible when it kept changing. He showed me so many houses, but with little inventory, none of them were quite perfect or they had too much HOA or Mello Roos. Finally when we found The One, no HOA, no Mello Roos, it had been on the market for 4 days and I made an offer that morning. I was sure the sellers would give it to someone else but Brandon worked hard to make sure they accepted my offer and by that night, the house was mine. Had it not been for Brandon I would still be searching for a house because so far, there is still nothing better than mine.
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