August 19, 1998 —
The Saugus School bell is inspected at SCV Historical Society headquarters by (from left) City of Santa Clarita engineering technician Bonnie Joseph and SCVHS directors Pat Saletore and Tom Frew IV, prior to its move to the Newhall Metrolink station bell tower.
The bell from the tower of the Saugus School was stored by the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society after the school closed in 1978. The Society placed the bell on permanent loan to the city of Santa Clarita for use in the tower of the Jan Heidt Metrolink Station in downtown Newhall, where it hangs today. The Newhall Metrolink station opened March 18, 2000 — ironically (by coincidence rather than by design — exactly where the original Newhall train station was located after 1878.
The Saugus School bell was fabricated by the C.S. Bell Company of Hillsboro, Ohio. It is made of cast iron, weighs approximately 400 pounds and measures 30 inches in diameter at the base (overall measurements are 24 by 36 inches, including housing and a wheel that once fit a rope to ring the bell).
Saugus Elementary School opened in 1908 on a section of Charles and Anita Kellogg's farm, located in the "triangle" between present-day Magic Mountain Parkway, Bouquet Canyon Road and Valencia Boulevard. Three Saugus businessmen (Saugus Cafe co-owner Martin Wood, Saugus grocer Ore Bercaw and someone named Osborn) contributed $100 each for the construction of the wooden, New England-style building. Unlike other Saugus buildings that faced east (toward Bouquet Canyon Road), the original schoolhouse faced south. Margaret O'Connell was the first teacher.
On Nov. 12 of that year, the Saugus School District was formed from sections of the Newhall School District (est. 1879) and Castaic School District (1889).
The little wooden schoolhouse was added onto as the school population grew — which it did, thanks in part to a 1911 state law whereby school districts were no longer funded based on area population, but by the number of kids who actually attended class. Now, school officials had a real incentive to get them there.
Tragedy struck on the night of March 12-13, 1928, the St. Francis Dam collapsed and sent 12.5 billion gallons of water crashing down San Francisquito Canyon. Half of the student body and some school staff members — estimates range from 17 to 22 souls — perished. (The schoolhouse survived; it wasn't in the floodpath.)
By 1935 the school district was in need of more money so it asked voters for an extra $1,500 per year. They said no, 7 votes to 6.
Unphased, the school board put together a plan for a new, modern school to replace the antiquated schoolhouse. This time, on Nov. 14, 1935, voters said yes to a $22,000 construction bond measure. Coupled with a $17,181 grant from the New Deal-era Works Project Administration in early 1936, the district spent $34,913 on a brand-new Saugus School.
Two years later, on Oct. 28, 1938, the district reorganized as the Clifton Union School District, swallowing up all or parts of neighboring districts. On Feb 27, 1940, it changed its name to Saugus Union School District.
District boundaries were adjusted again in 1951 and a portion was transferred to the Sulphur Springs Union School District in Canyon Country.
The Saugus District built its second school in 1960 and gave it the same name as the housing development in Seco Canyon where it was located: "Santa Clarita." Then came Jerome Snyder School, which was temporary, followed by Honby in 1963. (Honby School was transferred in 1991 to the Sulphur Springs District and renamed Canyon Springs.) From there, campus contsruction moved at a fever pace.
But the original Saugus School site's days as a learning facility were numbered. It closed after the 1977-78 school year because the population of Saugus had shifted north of Bouquet Junction and the location was no longer practical as a school site. Additionally, old timers remember the foul air that wafted over the campus from the Keysor-Century Records plant across the street, raising health concerns.
Purchased in 1978 by a private developer, the buildings were remodeled and expanded into the aptly named Saugus Schoolhouse Emporium, a shopping center. By order of the school board on Aug. 2, 1978, its bell (whose authenticity as the original 1908 bell has been questioned) was placed in the "custodial care" of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society with the intent that it be placed in the Felton School at Mentryville "until such time as a possible permanent location should be found." In 2000 the Historical Society placed it on permanent loan to the city of Santa Clarita for the bell tower of the Newhall Metrolink Station, where it hangs today.
Saugus — 1908 (closed 1978)
Santa Clarita — 1960
Jerome Snyder — 1962 (temporary)
Honby — 1963 (transferred to Sulphur Springs in 1991 and renamed Canyon Springs)
Bouquet — 1966 (served as the district office from 1966-93)
Cedarcreek — 1966
Skyblue Mesa — 1966
Rosedell — 1967
Emblem — 1968
Rio Vista — 1969
Highlands — 1970
Valley View — 1972 (transferred to Sulphur Springs in 1982)
Seco Canyon — 1987 (temporary, closed 1990)
Bouquet Canyon — 1989 (modular)
James Foster — 1989
Charles Helmers — 1990
(SUSD Office in Valencia — 1993)
Mountainview — 1996
Plum Canyon — 1998
North Park — 1999
Bridgeport — 2002
Tesoro del Valle — 2005
West Creek Academy — 2010
1. Minutes of SUSD Governing Board Meeting of Aug. 2, 1978, regarding the Saugus School bell: "On motion of Mrs. Lund, second of Mr. White, and a unanimous vote, authorization was given to place the Saugus School bell in the custodial care of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, to be housed at the restored Mentryville School site in Pico Canyon in Newhall until such time as a possible permanent location should be found."