Our city of Santa Clarita is known for its beautiful rolling hills and rich Western heritage – which is why the Clampers came to town.
The Clampers, officially known as E. Clampus Vitus, have roots in the mining towns during our state’s gold rush era.
The club grew as a parody of Masons and Oddfellows, with initiation rituals and rites that were meant to amuse and entertain with rough-housing antics and irreverent humor.
They evolved into a brotherhood that supported one another and cared for widows and orphans.
They also devoted themselves to creating memorials in locations where important moments occurred in California history.
In fact, the Clampers are responsible for building the historical monuments you see all over the Western United States.
So, what would inspire more than 100 Clampers to converge on our city of Santa Clarita?
They came to honor and celebrate the famous and iconic Saugus Café.
I’m sure you’ve eaten at the historic cafe on Railroad Avenue and driven past it too many times to count – but did you know that it is also Los Angeles County’s most historic restaurant?
That is why on Sunday, Oct. 16, the Saugus Cafe was recognized by the Ancient and Honorable Organization of E Clampus Vitus, as the county’s “oldest continuing operation cafe.”
The Saugus Cafe first opened its doors in 1888, just under a century before the city of Santa Clarita was incorporated. Originally known as the Saugus Eating House and located inside the Saugus Train Station, the cafe quickly grew in popularity among travelers on the Southern Pacific rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles as they stopped in the area.
From its first day, the Saugus Cafe has been a gathering place for residents to enjoy a bountiful meal at a reasonable price with friends and family. It is a credit to the cafe’s ownership and staff over the past 134 years – currently led by Mr. Alfredo Mercado – that the Saugus Cafe continues to be steeped in California history.
In addition to being a local landmark and a popular dining spot for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant has also welcomed with open arms some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Throughout the late 1800s and 1900s, as Newhall became a favored film location for silent movies and westerns, a host of famed directors, actors and entertainers walked through the front doors and enjoyed a meal at the Saugus Cafe.
The long list of celebrity guests includes notable directors D.W. Griffith and John Ford. The staff at the Saugus Cafe has also welcomed such stars as our very own William S. Hart, as well as Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Harry Carey, Hoot Gibson and Tom Mix. The restaurant has also proudly provided service to Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich, Tex Ritter and Frank Sinatra.
Many have come to Santa Clarita from far and wide to sit in the same booths where all these stars have sat, but residents continue to dine at the Saugus Cafe due to the wonderful food and excellent service.
On behalf of the city of Santa Clarita, it is my pleasure to congratulate the Saugus Cafe on 134 years of service and for its recognition as Los Angeles County’s oldest continuing operation cafe. I also want to thank the Clampers for recognizing what we residents of Santa Clarita have known for generations – the Saugus Cafe is a local and regional treasure that is a living connection to our forefathers.
We look forward to welcoming the Clampers back to Santa Clarita in the near future – to celebrate the other places of historical significance that we are fortunate to have right in our own backyard.
Mayor Laurene Weste is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at [email protected]