Homer & Bertha Pinnell Home 2022


The Redlands Area Historical Society, Inc.

The Homer & Bertha Pinnell Home

736 Walnut Avenue


Homer Pinnell graduated from DePauw University in Indiana. He arrived in Redlands in 1891 and married Bertha the same year. He also began working as a clerk for the Drake Company, the first hardware business within Redlands located on East State Street started by J.P. Drake in 1887.  Household goods were also sold by the company. Homer was a musician. He offered guitar lessons as discovered in an advertisement in The Facts of March 4, 1892.


When Bertha died in 1907, Homer sold the home to Dr. Anna Hayward Johnson with the deed transfer dated April 2, 1908. The following year Pinnell annexed 10 feet of lot 7 to Dr. Johnson because the house may have encroached over the property line. The 1908 Sanborn Map indicates the address as 436 Walnut. The address was changed in 1925 – 1926 to 736 Walnut.


Anna Hayward Johnson lived at the home with her mother, Henrietta Johnson, and other family members from 1908 – 1922. Prior to residing at 436 Walnut, in 1892 they leased the home at 556 S. Center Street and operated it as a boarding house for East Coast guests – called the Johnson Boarding House. This home is known as the Waite house and the earlier address was 356 S. Center. It is the stately yellow Queen Anne on the northwest corner of Cypress and Center St. 


Prior to arriving in Redlands from the East Coast, Dr. Johnson worked as a missionary field matron and physician to native American tribes, including the Cahuilla here in Southern California. Anna was a graduate of Vassar and the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Her mother Henrietta was also a physician. Anna would practice medicine in Redlands. Their family history is unique. They were from a long line of Quakers in the Philadelphia area who assisted both fugitive and freed slaves on the Freedom Trail. Indeed, the family home in Germantown, Philadelphia was listed as a station on the Underground Railroad and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997 named the Johnson House Historic Site. It is Philadelphia’s only documented accessible stop on the Underground Railroad.

 Robert Lowry and his wife, Laura, and their two children lived at 736 Walnut from 1926 – 1952.  Robert was the co-owner and President of Lowry and Wheaton in 1927 which was the only Packard automobile agency in Redlands, plus a service station. Mr. Lowery is featured in the Redlands Jubilee book of 1938, “He has always taken an interest in City affairs affecting the general welfare of Redlands.” In 1952 the family purchased a home at 513 Lime St., but kept the house at 736 Walnut Ave. Mr. Lowry died on January 5, 1961 as reported in the Redlands Daily Facts of January 6. 1961. Laura Lowry moved back to 736 Walnut Avenue and remained there until she sold the house to Charles and Marilyn Holcombe in 1970.


Mr. and Mrs. Holcombe purchased the home for their son, Chuck and soon to be daughter-in law, Amy. The couple were married within 3 months of the sale. The purchase was $7,000 – all cash. The young newlyweds (just 20 years old) paid the money to the parents at $100.00 per month until it was paid off. The house needed numerous repairs. The young couple persevered and a new roof was installed, central heat added, new kitchen installed, and much more.


William and Susan Keith purchased the house in 1977. They started the restoration in earnest around 2007 and finished 10 years later in 2017.  Following the house restoration, hardscaping and landscaping were consummated.


The extensive restoration completed by various contractors and the homeowners included the following: 

  • Retrofit of the “rubble” foundation.
  • Replacing a leaky roof.
  • Construction of a carriage house with vintage components and shiplap siding.
  • Restoration of the front porch redwood columns. The restoration work was done by Jerry and Susan and took them one year to complete using a dental tool, two-part epoxy, and 12 custom- made molds they crafted.
  • Replacement of damaged cedar shingles and the installation of a shiplap base to match carriage house. Historic house colors were chosen.
  • Interior French doors repaired.
  • A new front door built to resemble the door at the Mission Gables house on Eureka Street.
  • Removed layers and layers of paint, tile, and carpet from the floors of each of the original rooms.
  • Replaced flooring with new vintage style oak flooring for entire house. The bathrooms received vintage style tile and patterns and the laundry room vintage style linoleum.
  • Moldings replaced were custom made by homeowner or local crafts persons.
  • Pink and green wallpapers removed, walls restored and painted.
  • Moved kitchen from west side to east side of the house and constructed a butler’s pantry from using a small section of the wraparound porch. Same sloped ceiling and tongue and “V” groove planks used to match those of the circa 1920-1950 porch ceiling.
  • Built a bump out for period appropriate window to be added to west wall of living room. Also replaced windows and doors custom matching the sill pitch, rails, stools, stiles, muntins, and lugs.
  • The master suite, an addition from previous owners, was taken down to the studs and rebuilt with vintage style windows, trim, and flooring. The master bath was enlarged.
  • New period double doors made for the foyer
  • Front brick steps, circa 1960, were demolished and replaced with vintage style and finishes. The asphalt driveway was removed and vintage style concrete ribbon driveway installed.
  • All landscaping and hardscape was designed by a local landscape architect. Tiered concrete patios in back yard were designed to minimize a drastic 5 foot elevation change between house and back yard. Retaining walls were built with a vintage tile pattern.
  • A front yard cut stone granite wall was built plus 3 granite posts copying a design from similar ones on Olive Ave. The granite used was repurposed from the property.

After reading this long list of restoration projects, Jerry and Susan Keith certainly deserve an applause for their laborious consideration towards the restoration of their now beautiful home.     With that said, the Redlands Area Historical Society is pleased to present Jerry and Susan Keith with the 2022 Heritage award for 736 Walnut Avenue.

 Researched: Susan Keith and Marjorie Lewis



13 June 2022