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Harry Carey’s ranch is now an historic park offering lots of activities

Posted: August 27, 2009 3:51 p.m.
Updated: August 28, 2009 6:00 a.m.

Carey hired Navajo Indians to maintain his ranch.

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While most residents of the Santa Clarita Valley probably know about William S. Hart and his ranch, many of them might be surprised to learn there was another Western movie star who had a local ranch - actor Harry Carey. And, as with Hart's property, Carey's ranch has also become a park and museum.

Called the Tesoro Adobe Historic Park, it is located on Avenida Rancho Tesoro, and is now shouldered by the Tesoro del Valle housing development.

The two and a half acre site serves as a museum and park, offering a serene setting, fun activities and an enlightening glimpse into the past. Facilities include historic buildings, space for outdoor group picnics, and an outdoor amphitheater. Depending on the season, activities include free tours, outdoor plays and movies, a summer camp and more.

Actor Harry Carey performed in hundreds of films during a career that reached from approximately 1909 to 1948, and many of those were notable Westerns. He and his wife Olive Carey raised two children, Harry Carey Jr. and Ella Taylor. Harry, Olive and Harry Jr. were all actors.

While Ella did some acting, she preferred to care for the horses and animals at the Carey ranch, which the family owned and operated during the 1920s and 1930s at the mouth of San Francisquito Canyon. During this time, Harry Carey employed a small tribe of Navajo Indians to work his ranch. Along with other performers, the Navajo entertained tourists at a "trading Post" Carey maintained on the ranch.

The site of the park is where the main ranch house was built. Other outbuildings, which had been scattered across the ranch, were relocated to the site when the park was created. Damaged by time and the Northridge Earthquake, all the buildings have been painstakingly restored.

The park is managed by the County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation, and Albert Ewing, a recreational services leader for department, is integral to that. "Our focus is to develop a little cultural Mecca in a bedroom community - and try not to impact that community too much," he said.

Ewing noted that another famous family also owned the ranch. The Clougherty family, owners of Farmer John, purchased the ranch from the Careys in 1952, and owned it for nearly 50 years before selling it for residential development. Ewing explained that the furnishings visitors see at the park are from the Clougherty era, as the Careys took all their items with them when they left.

Ewing credits Regional Park Superintendent II Norman Phillips for the vision behind the expansion of the park's hours and offerings, and Ewing is proud to discuss these as long as you'll listen.

Art exhibits are a key, and these are presented regularly at the park, and incorporated into the free tours. Other events throughout the year include special art parties, the Tesoro After School Adventures (after school mentoring for students), Mommy & Me - Tiny Tot Connection, Tesoro Walk Club, Movies in the Park (still to come this summer), egg hunts at Easter time, a Fall Holiday Fair and a Music in the Park series (dates to come). One of the highlights of the Tesoro Adobe year is the Adventures in Arts Summer Camp, where some 20-plus lucky children get instruction in a variety of arts, crafts and "old-school" games.

A very special event, "The Return of the Careys," was recently held at the park. Harry Carey Jr., 88, his wife Marilyn, two daughters and friends - along with more than 100 guests - spent a day at the site enjoying Western food and country music, and reminiscing. Ewing said he hopes to organize a similar event for the Clougherty family.



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