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UPDATE: Santa Clarita Valley history housed here

Western movie star ranch offers a glimpse into unique era in the SCV

Posted: August 12, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 12, 2013 10:37 a.m.

Recreation Services Supervisor Jared Didier describes the original wooden roof of Joe's Cabin at Tesoro Adobe Historic Park on Friday. Photo by Dan Watson.

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While William S. Hart’s ranch at Hart Park is no doubt better known in the Santa Clarita Valley, Western film star Harry Carey left another famed movie star ranch that can be toured for glimpses into SCV life of a different era.

Tesoro Adobe Historic Park is open Tuesdays through Sundays, with guided tours offered Wednesdays through Sundays 1 p.m.-4 p.m.

The ranch at 29350 Avenida Rancho Tesoro in old Saugus was purchased by Carey in 1908 because “He needed something close to, yet far away from, Hollywood,” said park recreational services Supervisor Jared Didier.

Estimates of its acreage ranged from 1,794 to 3,000 acres — but Didier says Carey favored the latter number.

Structures were added throughout the 1920s using traditional building materials of the Southwest — sand, clay, water and straw mixed together and baked into the sun to form the traditional adobe building block.

During that time Carey owned the ranch into the 1930s, John Wayne, William S. Hart and Gary Cooper were among those who visited the location, Didier said.

Meantime, Carey’s career took off.

Born in 1878 in the Bronx with the name Henry DeWitt Carey II and a father who was a famed judge. Carey began writing plays while in college. A friend introduced him to D.W. Griffith, leading to a lengthy career that spanned both the silent film era and “talkies.”

For three decades he played the role of good-hearted outlaw Cheyenne Harry and appeared in John Ford’s first feature film, “Straight Shooting” (1918). He played the role of Senate president in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and received an Oscar nomination for the performance.

The ranch in Saugus remained a refuge to him for years.

After Carey’s death in 1947, the ranch changed hands several times; in the 1950s the main house was painted with murals by Les Grimes, who also painted movie backgrounds.

The Tesoro Adobe Historic Park became county property in 2005 when the Montalvo Properties LLC, the developers of the surrounding area, donated the ranch to the county. 

The part of the property that is now the park is on afew acres and displays the main house, partially restored, one of the stables, “Joe’s Cabin” and a bunkhouse. 

Day camps are held during the summers and tour occur every day besides Monday.

“We allow the kids to come and make adobe bricks,” Didier said of the field trip opportunity the ranch provides. The bricks made by visiting students are being used to build a wall.

 

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