Downtown Redlands grew from three separate locations and one had a saloon. Both Edward Judson and Frank Brown, Redlands co-founders, opposed the introduction of saloons in the East San Bernardino Valley. In one of the early temperance meetings the Riverside Press and Horticulturalist reported on March 12, 1887, the strategy required to repel a saloon that opened in 1886.
A.K. Smiley of Lake Mohonk arose and said, “He had been a resident of the city since 11 o’clock and that he was pleased with the sentiments expressed; that he was a hotel proprietor and no wines or liquors appeared upon his table at any time, and for five months of the year he had 300 guests.” The meeting consensus concluded only through city incorporation could a saloon be regulated. Taxing with a “high license” or declaring the saloon a public nuisance could be achieved with incorporation.
That first Redlands saloon was built by Edwin Alonzo Ball in 1886. He constructed a combination pool hall and saloon on Water Street (now Redlands Boulevard) near Fifth Street. Actually, the Town of Redlands Subdivision was not completed until 1887 and Ball was squatting on property he did not own. His saloon straddled the Mill Creek Zanja west of the present Tartan restaurant. The north door was labeled “Lugonia” and the south door read “Redlands.” The cool water flowing below functioned as an air conditioner. Straddling the Zanja was a diplomatic business decision that ensured commerce from both equally growing hostile business centers. The saloon became an instant success offering malt liquor, wine, brandy and whiskey. Pool offered laborers recreation with the possibility of a refreshing bath just outside the door.
Along East Citrus between Fifth and Sixth, Juan Baca began a butcher shop in 1885. Robert Chestnut constructed the butcher shop with bricks from the Burn’s Ranch in Crafton. Tipton and Carter were the first to use the butcher shop on July 28, 1885.
B.S. Stephenson opened a jewelry business in 1886. This wood building anticipated a downtown subdivision before any actual survey or land sale. Edwin Ball, a true entrepreneur, built the Pioneer Grocery store in the same location and found a lively concern.
When the Town of Redlands was surveyed, Ball went directly to Frank Brown and purchased a lot on West State Street and the corner lot on southeast East State and Orange Street before the official lot auction in March 1887. Ball quickly built the first hotel in the downtown, which was operated by his wife and children. His only competition was Prospect House and the far-off Lugonia Terrace Villa. The hotel had competition when the Sloan Hotel was completed in 1887 and The Windsor in 1888. By then, Ball had accumulated a sizable fortune.
Incorporation arrived in November of 1888 and two ordinances began to impact Ball. All his buildings violated the downtown ordinance that required only brick buildings in the downtown. Chicago residents who witnessed their town demise twice insisted on this law to avoid cataclysmic fire.
The second ordinance that Ball reviewed began to tax the saloon with quarterly taxes. He found this odious and sold the saloon to a San Bernardino saloon innkeeper. Ball built a brick store that became the Star Grocery on the southeast corner of East State and Orange streets. Within a year, he sold the Star Grocery to the Suess family for a huge profit.
Ball moved to the Santa Ana Canyon and purchased 160 acres and founded his Oakdale Ranch and Hotel de Santa Ana. His 50-bed hotel offered liquor without taxes, apples, cherries, hunting trips and fabulous fishing in the river.
In Redlands, the “high license” debate vs. prohibition took place in the Redlands Daily Facts and The Citrograph newspapers. Scipio Craig of The Citrograph favored high license. His office was on the east side Fifth Street within feet of the Ball saloon. They became good friends even though Craig refused to purchase ads from any saloon. His father had an 1873 winery in Crafton using the “Lugonia” label that was later used for naming Lugonia School and the area from the Santa Ana River south to the Zanja.
After eight years of debate, a prohibition council was elected in 1896 with a prohibition ordinance following. Scipio Craig lamented the business loss and quietly the city fathers had to raise taxes after the loss of $600 annually from saloon fees. The $600 paid half of the city salaries.
Prohibition gave the city marshal, city clerk and county constable a challenging problem. Redlands was surrounded by wineries. Dr. William Craig had a winery in Crafton; the Vache family was in San Timoteo Canyon; Ben Barton produced 30,000 gallons of wine in 1880 and Dr. Jacob D. B. Stillman had three 80-acre vineyards with one for wine, one for brandy and one for raisins. Stopping the importation of liquor from a constituency opposed to prohibition proved to be unsurmountable. The city clerk and city attorney wrestled with writing an ordinance that would work. City enforcement could never keep up.
Edwin Ball, whose saloon began the problem, died in 1900 at his ranch in the mountains. He is buried in the San Bernardino Pioneer Cemetery. Did he hold a grudge against Redlands? A new brewery will open in Redlands this year.