Evan Decker of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society hears a common refrain from local residents—that Santa Clarita doesn’t have its own history.
Hart Park in Newhall, however, reveals something beyond the housing developments and strip malls that now dot the valley’s landscape—the golden foothills, the ancient oak trees and the last remaining vestiges of an older, wilder, Santa Clarita.
The Questers, an international volunteer group, assemble here on the first weekend of every month to emphasize this history by providing free tours of the many restored buildings found at the park’s Heritage Junction.
While primarily concerned with restoration and preservation of the buildings, the Questers have another goal—to motivate young people to take an interest in their city’s history.
“We have a concern that younger generations coming up are going to say ‘so what?’” said Quester Linda Hintz, citing children’s increasing preoccupation with technology.
In order to combat this trend, they have begun to lead school tours which often encompass over 60 children.
The children are exposed to the 1930’s style interiors of the homes which feature many artifacts, such as rotary dial phones, with which they are otherwise unfamiliar.
Hintz says that their motivation stems from “a hope that we can spark that interest” in young people and that they will “follow up” on the information they receive.
The Questers ambitious goal has been successful, and is perhaps best manifested in Evan Decker.
At only 20-years-old, the lifelong Santa Clarita resident already has 7 years of volunteer work under his belt and was recently appointed to the Historical Society’s Board of Directors.
Decker, who comes from a family of history buffs, visited Hart Park as a child and immediately fell in love with the old buildings and the Wild West charm.
“I came here as a child and never left,” said Hintz, who can be found leading tours through the train depot and surrounding houses nearly every weekend.
Hintz regularly takes visitors through the Depot’s museum, where guests can see panels and exhibits that display scenes of Santa Clarita’s oil tycoons, bandits, silent movie stars and even its original Tataviam inhabitants.
Decker is the youngest board member by a significant margin, and hopes to spur an interest within guests of all ages for Santa Clarita’s rich history.
“When you step through those gates you go back in time,” he says.
“People say Santa Clarita doesn’t have any history, I just shake my head and think ‘hell no.’ It does and it’s here in my backyard.”
The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society offers tours of Heritage Junction every weekend from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The Questers offer tours of the park’s restored houses on the first weekend of every month from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.