California’s Lincoln Memorial…and more!
Visited: October 2017
No score and three days ago, and dedicated to the proposition that all museums are created equal, I donned my stovepipe hat and traveled out to Redlands to check out the only museum west of the Mississippi River devoted to Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War; The Lincoln Memorial Shrine. Honestly! While there, I discovered two additional architectural points of interest located within walking distance of the museum that also piqued my curiosity. My kind of day!
First the Lincoln Memorial Shrine. Why Redlands? I’m glad you asked, because it’s a rather fascinating story. Robert Watchorn grew up very poor in England, so poor that by the time he reached 11 years of age he was working 18 hour shifts in the coal mines at a rate of 27 cents a day. After moving to the United States in 1880, while working in Pennsylvania’s coal mines he gained an admiration for Lincoln and what our 16th president stood for. At the same time Watchorn “organized a night school for miners and became involved in the early American labor movement, culminating with his election as the first secretary of the United Mine Workers Union.”
In the early 1900s, among other things, Watchorn was appointed by Teddy Roosevelt as Commissioner of Immigration at Ellis Island (he was fired by the next president because of his pro immigration stance), and, while treasurer of the Union Oil Company, became a successful wildcatter accumulating a vast amount of money in the process. He and his wife had two sons, one who died as an infant, and the other, Emory, with whom Watchorn shared his fascination and admiration for Abraham Lincoln.
Fast forwarding to World War I, where now Lt. Emory Watchorn flew for the Royal Italian Air Force. From the Redlands Daily Facts website, “During a night mission, Watchorn’s center engine was hit by anti-aircraft fire. He would later receive a commendation for coolly executing a perfect emergency landing, saving his crew and the plane. The flying conditions, open cockpits and extreme cold took a toll on his health. He later contracted pneumonia. He recovered and eventually returned to California. His health problems later developed into blood poisoning. After an agonizing two-month struggle, Emory Watchorn died at the age of 25 on July 10, 1921.”
In remembrance of their son, his distraught parents decided to build the Lincoln Memorial Shrine in Redlands, which was Robert Watchorn’s winter residence. According to the website, “By placing the Shrine in his adopted home of Redlands, Watchorn knew this monument of ideals would be available to the increasing number of people moving into Southern California. It was ‘accessible yet secluded’.”
Watchorn (who donated $60,000 for the project) enlisted Pasadena architect Elmer Grey to design the octagonal shrine. It was built by A.E. Taylor and Sons of Redlands with reinforced concrete. There were limestone plates included with some excerpts from Lincoln’s speeches inscribed on them.
Work commenced in June of 1931 and was completed within eight months. Among the participants at the opening ceremony in 1932 were a group of African-American singers. As it turned out, many of these singers were descendants of a runaway slave by the name of Israel Beale, who had gone to Redlands in the early 1860s. A newly expanded shrine was rededicated in 1998. The three rooms now encompass about 3,500 square feet.
I parked in front of the A.K. Smiley Library (more on it later), since this is where my GPS stated, “You have arrived at your destination.” As it turned out, my destination was behind the library, but had my GPS not placed me here, I might not have noticed the library (as it turns out the library and the memorial have the exact same address).
Walking past the library I turned the corner and saw a bust in the distance. I assumed it was of Lincoln, but as I got closer I realized this was a bust of William McKinley. The power of advertising immediately popped into my head. “A statue of McKinley at the Lincoln Memorial Shrine? Surprising. What’s not so surprising is how much money you can save at Geico.”
In any case, there was William McKinley’s bust. According to the website Roadside America “President William McKinley’s protective tariff drove up the price of oranges and made Redlands the Naval Orange Capital of the World. He visited the town, then died, and so the town put up a bronze likeness of his head.” I think this is the same one, but I’m not positive. Unfortunately, Lincoln and McKinley shared the same ultimate fate … McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist in 1901 at the Pan-American Exposition at the Temple of Music in Buffalo, New York.
Inside, under its large dome and straight ahead loomed the Carrera marble bust of Abraham Lincoln by famed American sculptor George Barnard…
…whose works can also be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Pennsylvania State Capitol.
Two docents worked the adjacent reception desk, and although the museum is free, I thought it would be clever to donate a $5 bill to the cause. Sadly I only had three Washingtons to my name, but they were grateful.
Surrounding the rotunda walls beneath the dome are a series of Murals. Grey hired muralist Dean Cornwell, known for his beautiful murals at the Los Angeles Central Library, to paint these murals of “heroic female figures.” A docent told me that they represent the many traits displayed by Abraham Lincoln that contributed to his ultimate success. “Interestingly,” she told me, “there is not one that includes honesty,” which I assumed was an honest omission. Cornwell was paid $3,000 for his work.
Docents here are willing to answer any questions you might have. She added that the Lincoln Memorial Shrine is the only museum of its kind west of the Mississippi River that pays tribute to President Abraham Lincoln, his work and the events leading to and following the Civil War.
In the adjacent rooms on either side are artifacts of Lincoln and the Civil War, along with other interesting items pertaining to Lincoln. Scholars from all over the country come to visit all these pieces of history…I won’t go into them all. You’re welcome.
Had I met Lincoln at the below display, I might have asked, “A penny for your thoughts?” On the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, at a time even before buffaloes roamed on nickels, he became the first president to have his portrait on a U.S. minted coin. Up until this time, the Indian Head Cent was a mainstay of U.S. coinage.
There are documents about the election of 1864 in which Lincoln defeated former army general George B. McClellan.
One picture of note was a rare 1880 chromolithograph of General Ulysses S. Grant riding his charger Cincinnati. As stated underneath, “Grant was a firm believer in the military prowess of black soldiers. Here a black soldier raises the flag in triumph while attending to a white soldier.”
A military medal on display featured the Kearny Medal, named after General Phillip Kearny, who was killed at the Battle of Chantilly in 1862 and given out to soldiers who had been in his command. Musical instruments, including this tambourine, are also represented.
Channeling my inner Samuel Morse, I tried to use this telegraph, however I don’t know my dots from dits or my dashes from dahs. It sounded like some sort of code to me. I now realize why I had to quit the Boy Scouts with no merit badges.
John Rogers’ Council of War, made in the late 1860s or early 1870s, was also on display. In the sculpture, Lincoln is dealing with General Ulysses S. Grant and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton in the 1860s. Lighting was bad, but I do have a photo of it that I took at the The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, a couple of years ago. Robert Todd Lincoln stated that he considered the group of these made by Rogers were the “most lifelike portraits of his father in sculpture.”
There was also a display detailing the story of the Sultana Tragedy, the worst maritime disaster in United States history. On April 27, 1865 (the day after Lincoln was assassinated), the ship exploded and sank near Memphis, Tennessee, killing 1,192 people.
The Sultana was designed to hold 376 passengers, however on this voyage, it carried 2,155 just-released Union prisoners of war, plus crew and civilian passengers. According to historian Stephen Ambrose, “In April, 1865, Union POWs were gathered at Vicksburg. They were loaded on steamboats for the trip to Cairo, Illinois, with the government paying $5 per man. That was big money, which led to corruption — steamboat captains kicked back $1.15 to the army officers in charge if they filled the boats with men.” A replica of the ship is at the museum.
Even though the Sultana had some mechanical problems (which the officers knew about), a quick “fix” was made so the army officers could pack all those POWs on the ship. Below is the last photograph of the overloaded ship before it sank.
This museum displays not only Lincoln and Union memorabilia, but also those of the Confederacy. I read the comments of a local historian and shrine curator who said these artifacts from the Confederate Army are used to help tell the tale of the conflict and, that because of this historical context, he does not recall any significant complaints about Confederate Army artifacts at the shrine. One of these is a bust of Robert E. Lee that is located on one side of the domed room near the entrance . On the other side is a bust of Ulysses S. Grant (photo from the Redlands Daily Facts…the light was impossible to take photo).
I was able to take a photo of the dome (I needed friend and fellow traveler Kim to take his patented ceiling pictures here).
Moving to the room on the right (as you enter), I wandered over to the Changing Face of Lincoln that was painted by docent Ken Jolly.
By the way, according to reports I read, the museum is attempting to add The Face of Lincoln, which features an animatronic bust of Abraham Lincoln built by Garner Holt Productions in San Bernardino. It will focus on the life and legacy of Lincoln.
There are a number of Norman Rockwell paintings and prints featuring Lincoln, including a large one on the left (original, I believe) and small version of The Long Shadow of Lincoln from 1944. According to printed text near the painting, Rockwell “elected to execute a symbolic take on life as the United States looked toward the eventual end of World War II. The painting shows Abraham Lincoln in the upper left hand corner and a hurt soldier in the middle. The people standing and sitting around the soldier are symbols for freedom, liberty and democracy.”
The stories that accompany these prints are well worth reading while touring the museum.
This print by Francis Carpenter shows the reenactment of Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation in July of 1862. I don’t remember being at this historic event, but looking more closely at the print I must have been there as I can see myself chronicling it with my iPhone.
This Litho of the Battle Of Cedar Creek from 1890 highlights the 1st New York Dragoons at the Battle of Cedar Creek, which was a decisive battle during the Shenandoah Valley campaign.
All in all, I thought this was a worthwhile visit, and back out in the heat of a gorgeous Redlands day, I took a photo of the Lincoln Memorial Shrine and one of the back of the library (that I would visit shortly)…
…and one last Lincoln quote on the building.
Walking toward the library, I glanced across the street and spied an amphitheater. I was looking at the famed Redlands Bowl, so I wandered over. It was built by Florence and Clarence White as a gift to the City of Redlands in 1931.
The Redlands Bowl Summer Music Festival is the oldest continuous music festival in the United States at which no admission is charged.
Now it was finally time to go to the library. The beautiful building I had parked in front of more than an hour ago is the A.K. Smiley Public Library, which was constructed in 1898 and donated to Redlands by philanthropist Albert Smiley. At that time Redlands was known as “The City of Millionaires.”
From the library website, “Throughout 1896, Alfred Smiley discussed future library plans with his twin brother Albert K. Smiley. Alfred’s desire for a library building coincided with Albert’s wish to provide a downtown park for the enjoyment of Redlands citizens.”
…and topped by a cool cupola.
Also from the website, “A.K. Smiley Public Library was designed in Moorish style (similar to but distinct from “mission”) by T.R. Griffith. When completed the Smiley featured walls of solid brick with hand-cut stone trimmings and a roof of heavy red tiling. Albert Smiley also furnished the entire building with desks, chairs, tables, and stacks–all fashioned from oak. Gargoyles, griffins, and other carving adorned the library interior. The stained-glass windows feature symbolism associated with learning and libraries.”
In 2012, the library commissioned Redlands resident Scott Land to build a marionette of the Smiley Brothers. Land studied vintage photos and bronze images of the brothers. Displaying a good sense of humor Land said, “Thank goodness they were identical twins,” since he was able to use the same mold twice. No telling whether he pulled a few strings to get the gig. Next to it stands a beautiful grandfather clock.
Being young at heart, I entered the Young Readers Room (constructed in 1920), which became my favorite room due to its stained glass windows depicting scenes from children’s stories. The windows are the creation of Redlands stained glass artist, Tom Medlicott. There were stained glass windows featuring Charlotte’s Web and Cinderella…
Bear (hi Winnie) and Owl…
There are beautiful stained glass windows in other rooms, as well.
I walked into the final room where I came upon a gorgeous curved staircase with its carved banister.
Out back is a peaceful garden that also affords good view out onto the Lincoln Memorial Shrine.
The interior of the library contains some nice touches that add to the atmospheric look.
Unfortunately, the Heritage Room, where archival maps, books, newspapers and other historical documents are stored, was closed on Tuesday. I felt like sneaking in, but being a library I figured they’d throw the book at me.
Back out in front, I walked through the small grassy area in front of the library and checked out the statue of the two brothers who made this library possible.
My little sojourn to Redlands had netted three small architectural and historic treasures in one afternoon. There’s no doubt Redlands is a slight trek for many (unless, of course, you live in Redlands), but a museum dedicated to our 16th president made it a must stop for me.
Also, if you’re heading from the L.A. area to Palm Springs, it’s just a few minutes off the 10 freeway (well worth the detour, in my opinion). Take the journey to the Inland Empire, where you can be witness to Lincoln’s lesser know Redlands Address.
Lincoln’s Memorial Shrine
125 Vine Street
Redlands, CA 92373
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
25 Grant Street
Redlands, CA 92373
A.K. Smiley Public Library
125 Vine Street
Redlands, CA 92373
Sunday : 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. • Monday/Tuesday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Wednesday/Thursday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Friday/Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.