Friday, July 10, 2009

History Of Santa Clarita Valley, CA #19

Near the Santa Clarita Valley – Piru, CA
The area was originally inhabited by the Tataviam Indians. They left information about themselves chiseled into and painted on rocky overhangs and secreted caves throughout the local mountains. By all accounts a peaceful tribe, the Tataviam were christianized under the San Fernando Mission. Later they worked on large Spanish ranchos such as Rancho Camulos.
The name Piru (originally pronounced /piːru/ "pee-roo") is derived from the Tataviam language word for the tule reeds growing along Piru Creek that were used in making baskets.
The town was founded in 1887 by David C. Cook, a wealthy publisher of Sunday School tracts and supplies from Elgin, Illinois, who wanted to establish a "Second Garden of Eden" in this part of the Santa Clara River Valley. He specified, tradition says, that the acreage be planted with fruits identified with the Biblical garden—apricots, dates, figs, grapes, olives and pomegranates. That same year, Cook built his first home, a Colonial Revival structure, at the southwest corner of Main and Center Streets.
The Postal Service established the post office at Piru in 1888. Legend has it that the pronunciation was changed by conductors of Southern Pacific Railroad trains, who would shout out, "Pie-roo!" when pulling into town. Another story tells of a Piru restaurant known for good pies. The owner hung a sign proclaiming, "We Put The Pie In Piru."
In 1890, Cook built a lavish Queen Anne Style home a few blocks northwest of his original home, which came to be known as the Piru Mansion. A strict Methodist, he provided for construction of a church on the north side of Center Street, just west of Main. His home at Main and Center became the Piru Hotel.
For her novel Ramona (1884), Helen Hunt Jackson had used nearby Rancho Camulos as one of the settings. Portions of the 1910 silent movie, Ramona, starring Mary Pickford were shot there. During the production, Pickford, D.W. Griffith and others of the cast and crew, stayed at the Piru Hotel. The hotel later became known as the Mountain View Hotel. The name was later changed to the Round Rock Hotel, because of a large, round boulder located in the northeast corner of the front yard.
Juan José Fustero (b. ca. 1836), who called himself "the last full-blooded Piru Indian," died on June 30, 1921. In 1961, a plaque to honor him was placed in Piru Canyon near the place where he lived most of his life.
On December 17, 1922, Jenks Harris, a would-be cowboy actor, and a gang of partners in crime, robbed the bank in Piru of $11,000. He said, when later caught in Los Angeles, that he conceived of the idea while on location at Piru with the film company Universal.
In the 1950s, the Round Rock Hotel became the Round Rock Rest Home for elderly tenants, which it remained until 1989. It is now the Heritage Valley Inn.

The Piru Mansion

The Piru Train Station
The Heritage Inn originally named the Piru
Hotel and then later the Round Rock Hotel

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