A Glimpse Behind Local Historical Homes
Before there were schools, parks and shopping centers, the Inland Empire was a vast ranching area. People who visited fell in love and never looked back as they built their families homes that would last for generations. What was it like to live on our land 70, 90, or even 120 years ago? As we celebrate, embrace and improve our own homes this month, we also take a look back behind the walls of three beautiful historical homes.
A Brick Beauty
Kelley House, 1284 Kelley Street, Corona, CA
From its founding in 1886, through the late 1960s, citrus was responsible for most commerce in Corona. During those decades, it was a sparsely populated metropolis and it would take over 75 years for the population to exceed 20,000 citizens. The architectural styles of most homes built in the era when agriculture ruled the economy were utilitarian, simple if not humble.
A drive around the southern section of circular Grand Boulevard, the three-time automobile racetrack for international competitions over 100 years ago, will reveal exceptions to the standard early Corona abode. These include homes in Victorian, Queen Anne, Mediterranean, Mission Revival and various vernacular combinations architectural styles. Built mostly by the privileged often in the agriculture or banking businesses, these buildings are treasured and tangible mementos of Corona’s past.
One of the most curious historic homes within the original city limits, though, is not on Grand Boulevard. Its composition looks more suitable on an evergreen tree lined road in New England instead of among Southern California palm trees. It is located at 1284 Kelley Street, amid a residential tract of more contemporary homes. It is a spectacular two-story Colonial Revival brick house with a basement and a front door placed to face a street that was never developed.
In June 1928, the pre-Depression Corona economy was flourishing when local citrus rancher Norman Kelley hired Lewis Masonry to build this structure at a cost of $11,000. Mr. Kelley solicited blueprints from the east coast for the building so that a relative from there planning to live in it would feel more comfortable. Mr. Kelley lived in a home, which still stands on the same property, next door to the proposed brick building. This house became the home for the Kelley’s son and family. (Mr. Kelley’s grandson, David G. Kelley, would serve terms in both houses of the California State Legislature).
This was the first “all electric” house to be built in Corona which included each room having an electric heater. There were switches throughout the interior connected to an alarm so that a servant or other family member could be summoned.
The home stood among acres of groves, which during that time would have extended to the foothills to the south. Then, the scent of succulent orange and lemon blossoms would have filled the air. The house was at the center of a working citrus ranch that included a gas tank, water pump and ancillary buildings along with the assorted livestock plus farming equipment.
The unusual positioning of the front of the house still seems out of place, though a large semi-circular driveway helps to make it less obvious. When Norman Kelley commissioned the design, the city planned to build a street running east and west right in front of the home. A little over a year after construction, the stock market crashed ushering in the Great Depression and the street forgotten. Though the back of the dwelling faces Olive, the original address was 617 West Olive Street.
In 1954, Norman Kelley sold the home and his interest in Corona citrus and moved to Hemet. A member of one of Corona’s most prominent pioneering families, future mayor and member of the Corona City Council, Charles Jameson, became the first to purchase the property following Mr. Kelley’s departure. With new homes beginning to encompass the property, Mr. Jameson subdivided the five acres that surrounded the residence and developed a housing tract. Mr. Jameson chose to name the street for the new neighborhood, Kelley Street, to honor the Kelley family. This beautiful brick edifice, so unusual in California, remains one of Corona’s most intriguing historic homes.
Tebo Residence, 6th and B Streets, Chino, CA
William J. Tebo was a force that stimulated change and progress in Chino and the Chino Valley for 55 years between 1886 and 1941. Tebo was quite the Renaissance man as he was a merchant, and farmer, an entrepreneur, and at the same time, the town’s main lawman. A historian from the 1920s praised his devotion to the community by saying, “He proved himself indispensable to the task of making this a clean and safe place in which to live.” Tebo was one of eight, totaling 4 boys and 4 girls. At the young age of 16 he left Canada where he was born and raised and ventured off to Plymouth County, Iowa and secured work for himself the first year he arrived. He worked extremely hard in the farming business there and by the age of 18, he left Iowa and made it to Sacramento where he worked for a year. He was young, strong, and business savvy and fully committed to everything he set out to accomplish. He eventually found himself back in Iowa for business and met his adoring wife, Miss Alice Hammond. Three years later the two moved to Chino, California where Tebo purchased a half interest in 20 acres of land. He soon traded his land interests for Chino lots and built one of the first homes in the town where he and his family lived for more than 35 years.
Tebo and his wife had four amazing children. During the first few years of their stay in their new Chino home, Tebo worked in the construction of a sugar refinery, opened a feed, grocery, and general merchandise store, and by 1904 he took over as Chino’s Constable Sheriff. During his 37 years on the job, he took on many law breakers as well as enforced the laws in Chino during Prohibition. When Chino was incorporated in 1910, Tebo was amongst the first of the city councilmen. Three years after the town was incorporated, he built one of the most modern homes in the town. Through all of this he continued to remain a successful and diligent farmer.
Tebo died in 1941 and was missed by many. He was honored for his hard work and dedication to making his community a safer and better place. He was truly a pillar of the Chino community and laid out much of the groundwork that makes Chino such a lovely place to live today.
Did You Know? Chino Historical Walk
The Tebo house still remains just as beautiful today as ever. You can see it on the Chino Historical Walk, which is a public walk you can take on your own time that allows everyone the opportunity to explore downtown Chino and some of the historic landmarks of city, dating back to the late 1800s. All sites are located within about a mile of each other, have a historical plaque on the outside and a QR code to give you more information about each location. Want to learn more about Chino history? Visit www.chinohistorywalk.com or visit the Old Schoolhouse Museum at 5493 B Street in Chino.
John Rains House, 8810 Hemlock Street, Rancho Cucamonga, CA
The Rains House was built in 1860 by Ohio brick masons from bricks made from the red clay on site. Its flat roof was waterproofed by tar from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. The flat roof was extremely secure. An open flume carried water from springs through the kitchen, into the patio, and under the house to the orchard, thereby providing cooling for the structure. The original house had an entry hall, a parlor, and three bedrooms in the front, with a patio area flanked by a dining room, a kitchen, a padre’s room, and two guest rooms.
John Rains and his wife Maria Merced moved from Chino to the new brick house with their three children in the spring of 1861. By that time, Rains (a former cattle driver) was recognized as a rich and politically influential man, generous and well-liked, who provided abundant hospitality at his strategically-located Cucamonga home. He had planted 160 acres of vines in 1859, making Cucamonga highly popular for their wine and brandy. Unfortunately, in 1862, on his way from Cucamonga to Los Angeles, Rains was lassoed, shot and dragged into bushes near San Dimas. His body was discovered eleven days later, and his murderers were never found.
Maria Merced remarried Jose Carrillo in 1864, and continued to live in Cucamonga. The first school in Cucamonga is said to have been started in her home in 1870. After losing her wealth, Isais W. Hellman, a Los Angeles banker, acquired Cucamonga Rancho at a sheriff’s sale in 1871 for $49,000. Sometime after 1876, Maria Merced and her family (nearly penniless) moved to Los Angeles. Maria Merced died at age 68 in 1907. The Rains House switched owners numerous times until the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors purchased the property in October 1971, and the Casa de Rancho Cucamonga Historical Society was formed in 1972. The Casa de Rancho Cucamonga Historical Society was organized to assist in the restoration, maintenance, and furnishing of the John Rains House in keeping with its 1860 origin. Docents welcome guests when the house is open to the public. The society issues a quarterly newsletter, Eco de la Casa, for members and by subscription. Volunteers are sought for all society activities, including Rancho Day and the Christmas open house. Everyone is invited to join the Casa de Rancho Cucamonga Historical Society by calling (909) 989-4970.
What to Know about Cucamonga Rancho
Before the Rains House was built, Cucamonga Rancho had a rich history. The name “Cucamonga” is said to have been derived from a Shoshone word meaning “sandy place.” The area, watered from mountain streams, was the site of a Native American settlement. Mission San Gabriel established the Cucamonga Rancho as a site for grazing their cattle. In 1839, the 13,000 acre rancho was granted by the Mexican governor of California to Tiburcio Tapia, a wealthy Los Angeles merchant. Cucamonga Rancho lay along the route of the Old Spanish Trail from Cajon Pass and the road from the Pueblo of Los Angeles and Mission San Gabriel to San Bernardino. Each followed the Mojave Trail. Cucamonga welcomed travelers, including Native Americans, padres, explorers, mountain men, pack trains, wagon trains, and stage lines.
Meanwhile, John Rains married Maria Merced Williams in 1856; she was the daughter of Chino Rancho owner Isaac Williams and granddaughter of Don Antonio Maria Lugo, owner of the San Bernardino Rancho. Maria was a wealthy heiress, allowing Rains to invest in three additional ranchos and the Bella Union Hotel in Los Angeles. He purchased Cucamonga Rancho in 1858 from Tapia’s daughter, Maria Merced Tapia de Prudhomme (not Rains’ wife!), and her husband, Leon Victor Prudhomme. He purchased Cucamonga Rancho for $16,500 and constructed a burned brick building on the property at a cost of about $18,000, before finishing the Rains House in 1860.
Don Williamson and Sabrina Short contributed to this article