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March 22nd, 2008 - Weather, Or Not — LiveJournal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
rejectomorph

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March 22nd, 2008

Old [Mar. 22nd, 2008|01:29 pm]
rejectomorph
An album on Flickr has reminded me of the time when I was about five years old when my mom and I spent a night in a big old house in Redlands, California. The house, which had been carved into several apartments, was in an old orange grove, and it was owned by my great uncle. My grandfather was staying there at the time, and he fell ill, and my mom went out to look after him. I don't recall the exact circumstances that led to me being there for one night, but I remember the house. Not to say that I have a clear memory of it, but the overall impression it gave me has lingered ever since that night. It has even shown up now and then in dreams I've had.

It was a huge Victorian house, of three high-ceilinged floors, with an L shaped porch which I have the impression was perhaps five or six feet above the ground, and among its complex shapes was a corner tower with an enormous round belfry on its top floor. The apartment my grandfather was staying in was a single room with its own outside entrance, and it was located in what must have been the basement, as I recall going down a few steps inside the front door, but the first floor of the house was so high above the ground that the room was able to have windows at normal height for a first-floor room. Though we spent the night in that room, the next day I had a chance to explore part of the upper floors, including the round room in the belfry.

When I discovered this album of photos of Redlands I looked through it to see if that particular house was among the dozens pictured, but I don't think it is. The round corner tower on this house looks much like the corner tower of the house as I remember it, except for being only two floors tall instead of three, but the shape and mass are about right, and the onion dome might be the same— though I don't recall the tower's roof style for sure. I also think the house we stayed in had a center stairway onto the porch rather than the corner stair this house has.

Aside from its lack of a corner belfry tower, its first floor being too close to the ground, and a few other details, this building also has a strong resemblance to the house I remember. The caption for this photo says that this building was always an apartment house. I've always had the impression that the house I remember had been converted into apartments from a single house, but Redlands had other places of that sort and of similar size that were built as apartment buildings, and maybe that one had been, too, though it was more likely originally built as the grand house of a prosperous orange rancher.

Redlands, seat of the University of Redlands (founded 1907) was known in the smog-free late 19th and early 20th centuries as a health resort, and was the location of numerous guest homes and small, house-like hotels and apartment buildings, catering to moderately well-to-do invalids in search of a cure. The very well-to-do invalids had single family houses built for them, of course. The visitors, the retirees, the invalids, the doctors who cared for them, the college professors (much better paid in those days than they are now), and the prosperous citrus growers and townsmen of the region often spent lavishly on their dwellings, and Redlands still has an abundance of impressive Victorian and early 20th century residential architecture. Because it has only relatively recently been engulfed in Southern California's relentless suburban sprawl, it is both well preserved and a popular place for a new generation of well-to-do bourgeois to do costly renovations and historic restorations. Many of the houses in the album are obviously renovated, and I imagine the entire town now being thoroughly yuppified like Pacific Grove or Sausalito.

But I'll always remember Redlands as a quiet backwater, old-fashioned and stolid, possessed of a shaggy, if not shabby, gentility, like the old palm trees which then abounded there, most of which were in need of a good trim, sporting brown skirts of dead fronds. The declining orange grove in which the house was located was a bit shaggy, too, and my uncle had, as a speculation, moved a few smaller Victorian houses onto the large property, and was renting them all out. The location was on the edge of town and his intention was to eventually develop the land. I don't know if he ever got around to it or not, but I suspect that somebody has by now, and the house is as likely as not gone. I only ever saw it that one time, when I was about five years old, but I've never forgotten that big, dusty house with its corner belfry. I think I'll keep an eye on BaronRock's photostream, in case it ever shows up— though it may be that it has changed so in (or from) my memory that I'd never recognize it.
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