November 7, 2016

Rendering subject to change

In 1860, California pioneer Thomas Finley Mitchell homesteaded the property where Vista Canyon is now being developed. Cattle ranching and beekeeping were rigorous and often lonely endeavors. Five years after his arrival, Mitchell, a bachelor and Mexican-American War veteran, married Arkansas-born Martha Taylor. Amidst a grove of sturdy oaks, he constructed a clay adobe home where the couple would raise six children.

The Mitchells and neighbor John Lang established the Sulphur Springs School District in 1872 — the first school district in Santa Clarita Valley and only the second in Los Angeles County. Martha taught her own children, along with children of John and Mary Lang and six other local families, in the kitchen of the adobe. As their family grew, the Mitchells built a larger home on the property.

More than 100 years later, the remains of the adobe were placed under the care of the SCV Historical Society and relocated to Heritage Junction in Newhall.

The same trees that shaded the Mitchell’s first home still stand on the 10–acre site of Vista Canyon’s future park. Boasting trails, turf and tennis courts, plus picnic tables and shaded play structures, Vista Canyon Park will be home to River House, an inviting community building designed to highlight local history while accommodating a variety of community activities. Once constructed, River House, like the park itself, will be turned over to the City of Santa Clarita for ownership, stewardship and programming.

Architect Jim Mickartz is working with Vista Canyon and the City of Santa Clarita on an engaging traditional design for River House that will incorporate components of the site’s “educational” backstory and serve as fitting homage to the Old California architecture associated with much of this area’s history.   Through its interior design and exhibit space, the building will tell the story of the Santa Clara River and Vista Canyon property highlighting the important historical and environmental resources of both.

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