Historical project


Alex Edgar, Editor in Chief

One of Simi Valley’s oldest landmarks, the Simi Valley Historical Strathearn Park, provides tours of barns and other buildings with a rich Native American, Spanish and pioneer history, needed a special piece that no local vendors were able to recreate. Luckily for the historical park, a volunteer for the park named Steve Foster happened to live next door to Royal’s woodshop teacher David Sorenson, who got in touch with Sorenson to see if he and his woodshop students could do the project. Sorenson accepted the request and reached out to the Simi Valley High School’s woodshop teacher Bob Rennie if his students would like to join their project.
Together, the woodshop students at Royal and Simi Valley High Schools worked to restore two finials that have been a decoration atop the houses since 1888. The finial is a decorative ornamental wooden piece which sits at the top of the roof at the very front of the house where it is one of the first things visitors will see! One of the houses that will be receiving a finial is the Printz-Powell house, which had its initial finial removed in 2018 due to heavy damage. The other house, the Haigh-Talley house, had its original one removed in 1970.
The woodshops worked together free of charge for Strathearn Park creating the two 30″ finials to the exact historical specifications on the schools lathes. Per the park’s request, the lumber used to create these two finials was milled from Redwood trees that had fallen down at parks all over Simi Valley.
They received those Redwood trees as part of Royal’s woodshop partnership with the Park District for their Urban Logging Initiative, which was started several years ago by woodshop teacher Mr. Sorenson and Sinaloa Middle School’s Bret Knizek. The Urban Logging Initiative’s purpose was to get Simi Valley’s fallen trees back into the community in another form instead of sending it to the dump or chipping it all up.
The first step of the project was the Royal High School and Simi High School woodshop students cutting wood blanks out of a big Redwood tree on Royal’s outdoor lumber mill. Next, the two schools worked on shaping the wood into replicas of the finials that originally were part of the house. After they finished making the finials, they presented them to Strathearn Park on November 22, and since then have replaced the old finials atop the historical houses.
Sophomore woodshop student Steven Panferov said, “I really enjoy being a part of this project because it has helped improve my skills both in and outside of woodshop. It’s a fun class as long as you respect the machine and are safe.”
Woodshop teacher David Sorenson said, “It’s really cool to get the kids involved in the preservation of our town’s history. I think that this project gives the students a really fantastic opportunity to interact with real world application of things they’re doing in all their classes: real world problem solving, real world math, real world quality control, real world interpretation of plans, real world woodworking, and one of the most important, real world workplace communication skills. The time they have spent perfecting the finials for Strathearn Park has been invaluable to them. It is a project that they can come back and see their hard work being shown off at the park.”