Three people sit or stand in the signal tree (aka marker tree) at today's 24940 Pico Canyon Road, Stevenson Ranch, in this undated photograph (probably late 1920s) from the
Charles Sitzman Collection. The girl in front appears to be Barbara Sitzman, which could put this into the 1930s. The view is to the north.
In an audiotaped interview from December 20, 1996, transcribed by local historian Stan Walker, Barbara Sitzman decribes the photo as follows:
Picture of a 4-trunk oak tree still down near the condos at the mouth of the Pico Canyon that was in "Ripley's Believe it or Not."
While "Ripley's" called it "An oak tree with 4 trunks / Newhall, Cal" in a feature published July 28, 1930, it didn't actually have four trunks.
It probably had one trunk that split when two top branches were affixed to the ground by local indigenous people centuries earlier, when the tree was young, as a
directional marker — probably pointing the way to the Pico Springs, a source of asphaltum. (Over time, one of the two earthbound branches fell away.) The only time we see the tree
having two (or four) distinct trunks is in the artist's conceptual drawing in "Ripley's."
When it was built in 2000, the Extended Stay America hotel was required to preserve the marker tree and another nearby heritage oak tree and work around them — which is why the hotel has
the has a footprint that accommodates a small oak grove.
SZ2001: 9600 dpi jpeg from original photograph. Also catalogued as 090-ms-0016-112.jpg. Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society collection.