Boniface Larbig House – 2024


The Redlands Area Historical Society, Inc.

The Boniface & Julia Larbig House

47 N. First Street


On the banks of the Zanja at the corner of North First & West State Streets sits a brick Victorian cottage on an ashlar cut stone foundation in the historic Peller, Pratt, & Kendall Subdivision. This 960 sq ft house with English basement was the second brick home built on the property of Boniface & Julia Larbig, who had come to Redlands from Chicago, Illinois. The house occupies 0.12 acres on this iconic Redland’s Street, boasting distinctive architecture and history.

The Peller, Pratt, & Kendall Subdivision of 1887 took shape one year before the formal incorporation of the City of Redlands in 1888, from out of land formerly part of the Rancho San Bernardino. The neighborhood still contains a variety of quaint Victorian cottages, although only two remain within this subdivision composed of brick made from our local Redlands clay. The brickwork is done in Common Bond with full Header Rows every sixth course. On the two street-facing elevations of the house, two flat-arched sash windows flank doorways with transom windows—the North elevation’s apparently original Victorian door opens onto a small balcony—with matching dormers on the roof with decorative wooden cutwork forming Carpenter Gothic arches. On the east elevation on First Street, steps rise to a covered porch supported by two elephantine wooden columns. The ashlar foundation around the English basement is uniquely composed with windows and doors set into the foundation with brick quoining around the openings. On the south elevation is a 1936 addition of white shiplap that is sympathetic to the architecture of the building.

With subdivision occurring in 1887 (notarized by E.G. Judson) before State Street ran through the neighborhood along the Zanja, the Prussian-born brick mason Boniface Larbig purchased lots 11 and 12 in the subdivision on February 29, 1888. Larbig worked for the Taylor Brothers Brick Company in the Hamilton Block (330 Orange Street). This notable firm supplied bricks for and even constructed many notable brick buildings of early Redlands, including the Phinney Block (Board of Trade, 220 Orange Street), A.K. Smiley Public Library, Burrage Memorial (Trinity) Episcopal Church, the A.E. Taylor Home (1240 W. Olive Avenue), many of the brick commercial buildings of downtown Redlands, as well as the two brick cottages Larbig would build on his property. The first, 43 N. First Street, demolished in the 1970s or 1980s, was built in 1892 at the corner of 1st and Sacramento (now West Citrus) Street.

Larbig married his wife, Julia, also a Midwestern German immigrant, at Riverside Courthouse in 1896. Over the following several years Larbig would play his own unique role in the shaping of the West State Street neighborhood as Larbig would end up in a two-year court case from 1897-1898 against the City of Redlands over a right of way through these lots to create West State Street. The City of Redlands believed they had struck an agreement with Larbig to extend the street with $20 of compensation, but at Larbig’s request made West State Street 20 feet narrower than the right-of-way for East State Street. When the City completed building the street, Larbig built a fence across the width of the street, insisting that the city had used more land than agreed. Naturally the city’s founders challenged the idea that the City’s main street would not flow as one contiguous unit. Testimony from none other than John P. Fisk, Edward G. Judson, and the town trustees alleged that Larbig had received considerable value for having State Street pass through his property, as prior to then the back part of the property was “washed out” by the Zanja.

After two years in litigation, the court granted Larbig $25 more compensation, sent Redlands the bill for $100 in court costs, the Judson-allied Citrograph declared victory for the City of Redlands, and West State Street was reopened. Larbig would build this structure at the corner of 1st and West State Streets in 1900, but both cottages would share the address of 43 N. First Street until Larbig sold the 1892 structure in 1903, at which time the 1900 structure became 47 N. First Street. Unusually, Larbig and his neighbor both owned Lots 11 and 12, with the 1892 structure sitting on the south 48’ of the lots and the 1900 structure sitting on the North 60’ and retaining part of State Street, making dating the structure by typical methods difficult. Researchers relied on County Land Records to achieve a precise dating. In examining the Sanborn maps from 1900, it is interesting to observe the neighboring cabins with tent additions along State Street, compared to this pair of neatly built brick cottages.

The Larbigs resided on the property for 20 years, before selling the house in 1908 and other property Julia owned in Lugonia in order to move to Los Angeles. A succession of 11 owners over the course of 24 years brought connections to many different burgeoning downtown Redlands industries. In 1909, the property was owned by another German immigrant, William F. Risch, who had five additional lodgers residing at the 960 sq. ft. property, approximately 160 sq. ft. per person. Occupants between 1908 and 1932 included painters, bookkeepers, real estate agents, laundresses, butchers, domestics, multiple immigrants, boasting a diverse cross-section of downtown Redlands professionals engaged in a variety of industries and local business.

In 1944, the property was purchased by Mexican immigrant Manuel Valencia Cortez and his wife Josephine, whose family would end up being the single longest occupants and owners of the property over two successive generations from 1944 to 1999. Josephine was a laundress and Manuel worked for Gold Banner Packing House (still standing at 215 E. Redlands Blvd.).

The heirs of the Cortez family sold the property to Dr. Thomas B. Elliott in 1999 who used it as office space, prior to selling the property to its present owner, Tim Rochford, noted for his outstanding stewardship of severa; Redlands historic properties. It was at this time that the present tenant, the Redlands Chamber of Commerce, arrived at the property, bringing its own 136 years of history. Interestingly, both 47 N. First Street and the first location of the Board of Trade at 220 Orange Street are both constructed of the same Redlands clay Taylor bricks.

The Redlands Area Historical Society congratulates Tim Rochford on his 2024 Heritage Award and for his stewardship of this Redlands treasure.

Presented on June 12, 2024. Research by John P. Beall, Michelle Hong, Thomas Jackson, & Kathleen Beall.