What Can be Done with Beale's Cut?By Leon Worden
Friday, May 5, 2000
Get those visions of Marlee Lauffer out of your head.
Beale's Cut is the
What to do about it? That question has nagged local historians and public officials for two years.
Do nothing, and eventually this State Historic Landmark washes away. That would be a shame, not only because the Cut memorializes Santa Clarita's integral role in early transportation, but because hordes of local school kids go there— or, they did until the winter of
How, then, to preserve it? Cut it back to its 1863 depth of 90 feet, restoring its vertical dirt sides? That might not be too smart. Next time it rains heavily, a little kid could be standing under it. Or, more likely, its structural weakness would go unnoticed and, with sun out and a student group underfoot, a big chunk of dirt and rock comes crashing down.
So, what are the alternatives? Cut it at something less than straight up and down? Say, at a
Leave it at 90 degrees, but cement it over so it's structurally sound? No, that would wipe out its historical authenticity.
Or would it?
The Cut was started in 1854, and deepened in 1858 to about 30 feet. In
“On Saturday last, torrents of water were precipitated on the earth.... The road from Tejon, we hear, has been washed away. The San Fernando Mountain cannot be crossed.... The plain has been cut up into gulches, and arroyos, and streams are rushing down every declivity.... Another week has passed without a mail, making five consecutive weeks during which we had no communication with the outer world except by steamer express.”
The old newspaper articles contain some
Those details might hold an answer to our current restoration questions.
This entry in the March 15, 1862, Star quotes a
“On (Feb.) 17th, having completed the road behind us, I sent the whole force to the hill. On Tuesday the 18th I finished up on the south and crossed to the north side of the summit [the SCV side] where the heaviest work lay.
“Here I found the rains had washed the road entirely away to the wall of cement on the right hand side, forming a gulch from 12 to 15 feet in depth. It was necessary to cut away this wall in order to get a solid rock bed and to brace it well on the outside. The heavy timbers which had strengthened the former road lay in the bottom of the gulch. These the men dragged up by main strength and placed again in position.
“By staying these timbers with braces equally as heavy, upon a solid footing, and cutting off 10 feet of the cement wall, I think we have a better road bed than before....”
Historian Vernette Ripley, in a 1948 recapitulation of the
“It is interesting to try to visualize that old road; the cement wall of stone masonry, held together by mortar.... It had been put in to support the
The earliest known photograph of the road and the Newhall side of Beale's Cut, from a decade later in 1872, doesn't show any cement or wooden supports.
But the contemporary newspaper accounts, from 1862, before Beale deepened the Cut to 90 feet, do.
Cement. Mortar. Wooden supports. No kidding. What is new is old again.
©2000 LEON WORDEN ALL RIGHTS RESERVED