2007-04-05 / Community

Historical statue comes with house

By Stephanie Bertholdo bertholdo@theacorn.com

STEPHANIE BERTHOLDO/Acorn Newspapers STANDING TALL- A 14-foot statue of an Indian, installed in the 1940s, stands guard on Mount Estrella in Agoura Hills. This local icon sits on a 1.4-acre property with a four-bedroom home for sale. STEPHANIE BERTHOLDO/Acorn Newspapers STANDING TALL- A 14-foot statue of an Indian, installed in the 1940s, stands guard on Mount Estrella in Agoura Hills. This local icon sits on a 1.4-acre property with a four-bedroom home for sale. Home buyers and history and mystery buffs have the chance to own a bit of Agoura Hills' lore if they buy a house high in the hills above Agoura Road.

The four-bedroom, three-bath home sitting atop a 1.38-acre hilly lot offers some unique amenities- a 14-foot statue of an Indian sculpted by Count Jean de Strelecki, a Polish immigrant and artist; caves once used as an outpost for weary travelers; a stone mask either engraved or embedded in the side of the hill and possibly other artifacts dating back to the days when Chumash Indians resided in the area.

A legend claims one of the largest caves was used as a hideout for the bandit Joaquin Murrieta.

Hidden treasure is also said to be buried on or near the site, possibly by Murrieta, but owners Scott and Donna Sava and their twin 4-year-old sons have yet to discover any stashed gold.

Sally Schneider, a planning technician for the city of Agoura Hills and member of the city's historical committee, said de Strelecki unwittingly fashioned the statue of Chief White Eagle after the Seminole Indians in Florida rather than the Chumash Indians who lived in the Conejo Valley for centuries. Schneider said she thought that nearby Seminole Springs inspired the portrayal.

The Chief White Eagle monument was unveiled sometime in the early 1940s when Agoura was young and cattle ranching and sheepherding were the dominant industries of the day.

"At the time of the unveiling there were 10 Indians present, including two squaws and a child in full (regalia)," Schneider said. "Of course the Indians felt honored- they didn't point out the dress was different."

Schneider said the chief stands guard over Mount Estrella, a section of the city's Indian Hills neighborhood.

Scott Sava enjoys the lore of his land. During the unveiling of the statue in the 1940s, Jay Silverheels, a Mohawk Indian who portrayed Tonto, the Lone Ranger's sidekick on the radio drama and later the television series, signed the base of the statue, Sava said. Iron Eyes Cody, a Cherokee who portrayed the crying Indian in the "Don't Pollute" commercials, also signed the statue.

Although the city maintains an easement to the statue, the statue is protected on private property. The Savas fenced in the bottom of the hill to prevent vandalism and the temptation for teenagers to conduct parties by the caves, park old cars and dump trash on the property. But they're always willing to allow people access to see the statue, caves, carvings, and a mystery mask that is either an ancient artifact carved into the hill or a modern mask created to appear old.

Other artifacts keep the owners wondering about the early history of the community. Scott Sava thinks a smooth, rounded stone surrounded by poison oak might have been used by the Chumash Indians to grind maize.

"People come all the time," Donna Sava said. "Before we had the fence, people used to hike there all the time." She said that while most visitors have been polite guests, some have left trash on the property. The Savas fenced in the land when teenagers were caught drinking beer by the base of the statue.

"It's a cool historical figure," Donna Salva said.

The property is listed for sale at nearly $1.3 million. It is zoned for horses and a lower level guest house. The Savas added a lower level studio. (Scott Sava has operated an animation studio at the home for the past seven years.)

The property is listed by Jaki Carroll and Robin Hagey of Troop Real Estate.

For further information and a tour of the property, call Carroll at (818) 326-1441 or Hagey at (805) 338-1700.

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