Smiley Heights

Posted on 14 March 2014

Smiley Heights

The panoramic view from Smiley Heights showing the citrus groves of Redlands, California, and the snowcapped San Bernardino Mountains in the distance. These two photographs (stitched together by me) come from 1904, when Redlands sat at the peak of social and financial power. The town had moved up to the highest echelon of U.S. society after the arrival of Albert and Alfred Smiley in 1889. The well-endowed Quaker twins had earned esteem for their annual conferences on the “Indian Problem” held at their hotel resort at Lake Mohonk in the Catskills. In California, the Smileys opened the grounds of their retirement place, Canyon Crest Park, to the public. The view from the park became one of the most reproduced scenes in regional promotional material. “Smiley Heights would make the hanging gardens of Babylon look like a tenement alley,” gushed one travel guide. “Earth may be squalor and filth of Constantinople, heaven will be like Redlands,” echoed the Philadelphia Bulletin. Here the Smileys hosted sitting presidents such as Arthur Taft and industrialists such as Andrew Carnegie. Before long, a parade of eastern plutocrats had built winter hideaway mansions in Redlands, and invested in oranges. William Cornell Greene, the “Copper King of Cananea,” bought 40 acres in Redlands to complement his millions of acres in northern Mexico. “Millionaires and multimillionaires are to be found there [in Redlands] in a profusion that brings to mind the old simile of the fleas and the dog,” remarked one partisan of Pittsburgh. As of 1902 Redlands claimed to have surpassed its neighboring citrus colony Riverside as America’s richest place per capita.

(Photo source: U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library.)

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