Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Beale's Cut
Newhall, California

Beale's Cut, probably in the 1930s, looking south(?). Note the strange rectangular holes half-way up on both sides, possibly to hold some sort of structure for performing road repairs — or maybe for a film crew. Beale's Cut was no longer a state or county highway when this photo was shot.

Per Todd Spiegelberg, the car appears to be a 1937 Pontiac sedan.

Beale's Cut is the 90-foot-deep, hand-cut gash through the mountain southeast of Sierra Highway and San Fernando Road (later renamed Newhall Avenue) in the Newhall Pass.

It's often been called Fremont Pass, although Frémost actually would have come through the area about a quarter-mile east of Beale's Cut, on the old Spanish trail (El Camino Viejo) in Elsmere Canyon.

General Phineas Banning drove the first stage through the pass in 1854 when it was only 30 feet deep. In 1862, Gen. Edward F. Beale, a veteran of the Mexican-American War, took over a contract from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to improve — i.e., deepen — the cut to improve passage for wagons from the pueblo of Los Angeles north to the Tehachapis. Beale used Chinese immigrants to do the work, completing most of the work in 1863. The Board of Supervisors accepted it as complete on March 5, 1864.

In 1910, the roadway was replaced by the nearby Newhall Tunnel, which gave way to modern-day Sierra Highway in 1938. During the El Niño storms of 1997-98, Beale's Cut caved in. Today it is at about half of its former depth, and the remaining walls form more of a V shape than a U shape. It cannot be restored to its original 1864 condition without artificial support.

Beale's Cut and the adjacent Newhall Refinery site have the same owner.

When the refinery site was proposed for business park development in the early 1990s, Beale's Cut was annexed into the city of Santa Clarita. (It had been unincorporated county.)

The development agreement also called for Beale's Cut to be deeded to the city as parkland when the rest of the property was developed. However, the development did not come to fruition and the agreement is no longer in effect.

For more information, read Movie Trivia from Beale's Cut.

Photo from the California Department of Transportation files.

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