After several years of planning, Old Town Newhall is emerging as a thriving venue of unique shops, live theaters and unique restaurants. The most visible early redevelopment of the area occurred in the late 1990s when Railroad Avenue was renovated with period light fixtures and landscaping, followed closely by nearly a block of retail renovation to the structure that now holds the Repertory East Playhouse and El Trocadero Steakhouse. That same block south of Market is also the new home of the Canyon Theatre Guild, whose playhouse hosts some of the finest community theater found anywhere. Across Railroad Avenue is the third Metrolink station to open in Santa Clarita, the Jan Heidt Metrolink Station, named after one of the city’s first council members.
The oldest and most historic community in Santa Clarita also features the Walk of Western Stars, a Hollywood Boulevard-style sidewalk that honors western stars and other noteworthy individuals; the Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival at the nearby historic Melody Ranch, a working movie ranch once owned by western legend and California Angels owner Gene Autry; William S. Hart Park, a county-run facility that also includes the home-turned-museum of silent western star William S. Hart, a petting zoo and expansive grounds; Placerita Nature Center; historic Heritage Junction and the historic Pioneer Oil Refinery.
Newhall was founded in 1876. Railroad tycoon Henry Mayo Newhall had a major influence on this valley’s destiny, recognizing the impact railroads would have on the area. He bought the old del Valle rancho and sold the railroad right-of-way to the Southern Pacific railroad for $1 and a town site for another dollar. Southern Pacific named the little town after him.
Newhall was the setting for filming of the earliest western movies, and this heritage was maintained by silent western star William S. Hart, who bequeathed his famous home and property to the county. His home is maintained as he left it, and it is open to the public for tours. Originally an oil, mining and farming community, Newhall now holds a generous portion of the still-visible history of this valley.