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Home evolves into cultural center

Park hosts art displays, plus native animals and plants

Posted: May 4, 2009 9:43 p.m.
Updated: May 5, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Al Ewing walks through the kitchen of the adobe house at Tesoro Adobe Park. The park is open to the public on weekends. Al Ewing walks through the kitchen of the adobe house at Tesoro Adobe Park. The park is open to the public on weekends.
Al Ewing walks through the kitchen of the adobe house at Tesoro Adobe Park. The park is open to the public on weekends.
Al Ewing likes to think of Tesoro Adobe Historic Park as a sanctuary for the Santa Clarita Valley.

It's a place for local residents to learn about Harry Carey, the famed Western film star who lived at the Valencia home in the early 1900s. The home eventually was obtained by Los Angeles County, which designated the location as a historic park.

It's a spot where families can spend an afternoon or take part in its frequent art shows and events.

Nearly two years ago, when Tesoro opened for tours on Saturdays, Ewing and his staff found that residents didn't really know the place existed, which led to a new idea for the spot.

"Let's turn it into a little cultural center," recalled Ewing, recreation services leader for Los Angeles County.

The intent was to create a spot for the Santa Clarita Valley that would involve arts, music and Tesoro's history without major events interrupting the daily life of residents in the nearby Tesoro del Valle housing development.

"This is a bedroom community that could not take a rush," Ewing said.

Through the brainstorm sessions, Ewing and his colleagues came across organizations like the Santa Clarita Artists Association.
"They needed a place to park their art," Ewing said.

By hosting art shows, Ewing came up with ways to show people multiple reasons to visit the park.

"That formula has worked out great," he said.

Tesoro's staff has made its own findings as more attention was given to Tesoro.

"We ourselves are discovering the zillions of plants here," he said, referring to the cacti and fruit trees.

In addition to plants, Tesoro is home to raccoons, possums and reptiles, he said.

Tesoro includes nine Spanish-colonial-style buildings made from adobe - a compacted mixture of earth, clay and mud.

Each of the buildings sits in its original location.

The rooms, kept cool because of the insulation provided by their adobe construction, are decorated with pieces of history from Carey's days and offer visitors a glimpse into what daily life decades ago was like.

Carey is best known for his numerous roles in Western films. He appeared more than 230 films from the early 1900s, according to a history of Tesoro Adobe Historic Park.

Carey's wife, Olive, and son Harry Jr. also worked in the film industry.

After the Careys lived in the home during the 1920s and 30s, the property passed over to a family in the meat-packing business.

The family originally planned to raise hogs on the ranch, but that venture never materialized, as the climate was too hot for the animals, according to the history. The spot turned into a vacation home instead.

The site offers tours where visitors can peruse photos and clippings that detail the cowboy lifestyle.

Pieces of art made by local artists hang in displays throughout some of the rooms, giving visitors a chance to browse local creations while strolling through a historic building once home to a film legend.

Outside, aging trees drape their branches over sidewalks. Manicured lawns and a diverse range of trimmed plants line the walkways.

Ewing hopes to expand the type and number of art displays, and to make Tesoro a learning center where art and history can merge, Ewing said.

At the same time, the ongoing art shows and frequent events bring in upwards of 200 people a weekend without harming the relaxed, secluded ambience at Tesoro.

Tesoro hosts after-school programs and mommy-and-me classes on a weekly basis. The historic park is also home to the Tesoro Walk Club for local residents interested in exercising on one of the many walking paths and trails at the park.

The site even plays host to gatherings and averages one to two weddings a month.

In line with its upcoming calendar of events, film legend Harry Carey Jr., wife Marilyn and other family members will visit Tesoro at 1 p.m. on May 30 for a potluck luncheon, Ewing said.

During the event, Carey and his wife will take part in a question-and-answer session as well as tour the historic spot.


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