Visiting Kimberly Crest in Redlands

Way back before the age of social media I subscribed to Charles Phoenix’s Slide of the Week. Do you know Charles Phoenix? The histo-tainer, the Ambassador of Americana, the LA legend? Anyway, each week he would send a different vintage slide with a little tale of classic SoCal and one week he sent an image of Kimberly Crest, the grand estate in Redlands. I had never heard of it but from his description I immediately had to go. Well, immediately turned into several years and finally on a recent weekend I headed inland to tour the estate.

In 1896 Cornelia Hill purchased 3.5 acres outside the town of Redlands and commissioned a European style mansion to be built on the site. Within a year she moved in but stayed only 8 years until she decided to move to a smaller place in town. She sold the home to J.A. Kimberly, one of the founders of Kimberly-Clark, and he soon occupied the home with his wife, Helen. They lived in the home until their deaths in 1928 and 1931, respectively and it was then passed on to their daughter, Mary Kimberly Shirk. Mary, a widow, devoted much of her time to the people of Redlands and supported many philanthropic causes. As the city grew around the mansion and the treat of development reached neighboring Prospect Park Mrs. Shirk struck a deal with the city – if they raised the money to save the park she would donate her home to the city upon her death. The money was raised and in 1981 the home was opened to the public.

To this day public tours are offers on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays for a nominal fee. The home is located on a hill surrounded by lush trees in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

After parking down the hill we made our way through the beautiful tended grounds to the visitors center. Inside we viewed some family artifacts while waiting for our tour. It was a slow day and when our tour time arrived we were the only patrons. I wish there were more people out enjoying the historical landmark but a private tour did allow us a thorough, intimate tour.

As is often the case with historic home tours, photos were not allowed. I wish they were because the inside is beautiful! Because the home was donated by its longtime occupant the interior furnishings are original and it’s decorated much as it had been during her tenure there.

The tour took us all over the first and second floors and our knowledgeable tour guide told us all about the home and the family who lived in it. As Mr. Kimberly was a long time president of Kimberly-Clark there were also vintage Kleenex items that were fun to see.

At the conclusion of our tour my family and I agreed it was one of the most beautiful residences we’d ever been in (and we’ve been in a LOT of historic homes). Kimberly Crest is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and deservedly so. A visit to the home will give a glimpse into life in early California, an insight into one of our country’s largest corporations and an appreciation of fine architecture. It’s well worth visiting.

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