Redlands’ service organizations handle almost every aspect of life in Redlands, from giving a hand up to the needy, to preserving an extraordinary museum, to funding fine music and music workshops, to providing sports activities for Redlands’ youth. Redlanders and their organizations step forward in a big way.
Redlands Conservancy, also, focuses on one aspect of Redlands life, in this case, the physical environment. Since the conservancy formed in 1994, the organizations’ members have understood that the historic built environment and the town’s cultural and historic sites promote economic well-being and a high quality of life for all businesses, residents and visitors. To that end, the conservancy has instituted programs and taken on projects for preservation and conservation with three strands: historic preservation, citrus preservation, and natural open space conservation.
The Historic Preservation Council, one of three major committees, handles the conservancy’s historic preservation projects. Over the years, the conservancy has helped prevent demolition of Mission Gables, Barton House, Mitten Building, Marten Andersen House, Barton School House, Clay Street cottage, La Rosita/Starbucks building, MOD packing house, and the church on Clay Street and Lugonia Avenue. The last building was lost to the new Boys & Girls Club building, but the others are restored, renovated, reused and operating, and contributing to the town’s unique streetscape.
In 2013, the conservancy restored the stone walls and platform of the historic Panorama Point, all through private donations. In 2014, the conservancy worked with the city to bring the Mills Act to the city, providing incentives to building owners to preserve their historic buildings. We later helped the city to obtain Certified Local Government status, which gives the city more control over management of projects involving state and federal funding.
Redlands Conservancy President Robert Dawes started the Cut-Stone Curb Restoration Project to encourage property owners to restore damaged cut-stone curbs along their property. Dawes says more than 1 mile of curbs has been restored throughout the city.
Since 2008, the conservancy has been working to develop the Zanja Trail, a natural-surface pedestrian path along or near the historic 200-year-old Mill Creek Zanja. With the help of the city of Redlands and the funding provided by Jack and Laura Dangermond, the organization was able to open the trail’s first reach this year. The second reach, from Seventh Street to Church Street, will be under construction soon. This project is a celebration of the Zanja (or Sankee, to many Redlanders), which brought water and the possibility of prosperity to the region.
The year 2018 saw Redlands Conservancy acquire ownership of the historic Asistencia on Barton Road, after working for two and a half years with the San Bernardino County Museum. The conservancy’s charge is to preserve the historic buildings in perpetuity, and to make the site available to the public.
Historic Preservation Council members regularly assist buildings owners to nominate their historic properties for local historic resource designation. The Historic Preservation Council also works on identifying candidate buildings for the group’s Adaptive Re-Use Award, given to owners and restorers of buildings that have been renovated and adapted to modern uses, thus preserving the look and feel of historic Redlands, the feel that makes visitors say, “I had no idea Redlands was so beautiful and interesting.”
The 2019 award winners are Nabil Ayoub and Paul Emerson for their historic building of the Olive & Citrus restaurant.
The conservancy has hosted the California State Historic Resources Commission’s quarterly meeting on two occasions, thus raising the level of awareness about Redlands, California.
During May of each year, the council sponsors the Redlands Historic Preservation Fortnight, a two-week series of programs and activities designed to encourage appreciation of historic buildings and sites in Redlands. At the Fortnight Reception, the council recognizes structures that are as old as the city with a Club 125 award.
Whenever a building owner seeks demolition for a structure 50 years old or older, the city’s Historic and Scenic Preservation Commission directs that owner to contact Redlands Conservancy and offer the structure for either relocation or salvage.
While the conservancy has not been able to re-locate any structures, it has brought in people to salvage significant architectural items.
And all this is the work of just one of the three committees that the conservancy manages with a full-time executive director and one part-time staff and a battery of volunteers.
These projects remind the community how important the conservancy’s projects and programs are to the preservation of Redlands’ heritage.