November 20, 1990|STEPHANIE STASSEL

* HISTORY: The first cross at Mt. McCoy was erected by Spanish priests in the early 19th entury to direct travelers to El Rancho Simi. Around the turn of the century, a shepherd is believed to have replaced it with a stone cross, which was later replaced with a wooden cross by a Sunday school teacher and his class. In 1941, the Simi Valley-Moorpark Lions Club erected the 12-foot-high concrete cross that has stood on the mountaintop ever since.

* LOCATION: The cross sits on the mountaintop visible from the west side of Simi Valley, particularly from the Simi Valley Freeway and from the corner of Madera and Tierra Rejada roads.

* HOURS: The property is privately owned and is not open to the public.

In the early 1800s, travelers looked for a wooden cross on a hill to know they weren't far from El Rancho Simi. Nearly 200 years later, the cross on Mt. McCoy remains one of Simi Valley's best-known landmarks.

Placed on the mountaintop by Spanish priests, the cross directed people traveling between the Ventura and San Fernando missions to the El Rancho Simi Adobe, another historic landmark. The adobe was built shortly after 1800 by landowner Santiago Pico, said Pat Havens, curator and historian of the Simi Valley Historical Society. Here, the travelers could sleep in the courtyard or replenish their water supply.

Near the end of the 19th Century, a shepherd is believed to have replaced the cross with one made of stone, Havens said. The mountain got its name in 1898, when C.B. McCoy, a salesman for the Simi Land & Water Co., settled on 5,000 acres in the area.

The stone cross remained on the mountain until a Simi Valley Sunday school teacher decided it should be replaced with a wooden cross like the one documented on a handwritten surveyor's map dated 1858 and 1859.

R.E. Harrington and his students erected a wooden cross in 1921 and started a tradition of holding Easter sunrise services on the mountaintop. In 1941, members of the Simi Valley-Moorpark Lions Club and ranch workers replaced the wooden cross with a concrete one.

"At that time, it was an old wooden cross that had rotted out," Newt Heflin said. "It was a lot of work to put up the new cross but it was worth it. We thought we'd done some good."

The Easter services, complete with a choir, soloist and piano accompaniment, attracted several hundred worshipers each year until 1968. Due to difficult access to the site and a lack of parking, the service was relocated to local churches the following year.

Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, the Rotary Club of Simi Valley illuminates the cross each night. Members often bring their children and families to spend the night on the mountaintop, keeping watch over the generator used to light the cross.

Four years ago, the cross on Mt. McCoy was designated Ventura County Landmark No. 106. The property is owned by a developer and is off limits to the public.