J. S. Miller House


The Redlands Area Historical Society, Inc.
Heritage Award 2013

J. S. Miller House
214 W. Cypress Avenue

This 1910, 5 bedroom 2 bath home at 214 West Cypress Avenue was designed and built during the eclectic movement predating WWI. The original building permits are not on file at the city of Redlands for this house. The first reference to the home is an article appearing in the Redlands Review dated November 20, 1909. The article is titled “J. S. Smith will build $6000 Structure on Cypress Avenue”. While Miller is not found in any of the City Directories of the day the same article indicates he had only recently moved to Redlands from the mid-west. The city water connection was made in his name on March 14, 1910.

By 1913 the house was held in the name of Mrs. Anna Reeder and in 1915, Floy B. Church was added to the title. The title remained in the name of these two individuals until 1921 when Jessie E. Thorn (Mrs. William Thorn) took title of the property.

In contrast, the 1919 city directory lists Royal Church as living at the residence and the census the next year declares him owner. Royal married Blennie J. Mills and they had three children; Raymond, Chadmus, and Anna. Anna was a bookkeeper at a local packing house. Prior to retiring in Redlands, Royal lived in Ohio and was a blacksmith, as was his father (Henry). According to family records, Royal was a decedent of Joseph Austin Church, a Revolutionary War soldier who witnessed the surrender of Cornwallis.

William Thorn was born in Iowa in 1863. The 1870 census shows him living there along with his parents on a farm. By 1890 at age 27 he was living alone in Oklahoma and in 1900 he was living in Wyoming as a single man and a civil engineer. In 1910 he lived at the Sage Precinct of the Cleveland National Forest along with a large crew of U.S. surveyors.

After his marriage to Jessie Elorna Grant in 1915 they lived at 305 Buena Vista. Following this, in 1921 they moved to the Cypress House. The 1921 to 1922 city directory lists William Thorn as a civil engineer living with his daughter Inez, a student. In 1923, his wife Jessie’s name is added to the directory.

The home doesn’t strictly follow any tradition; rather it seems to be a pleasing collection. The front elevation is symmetrical with windows to the right left of the recessed front door. These lower level windows are double casements with corresponding screen doors. The three second story windows are double hung sash windows with a solid lower pane under either 10 or 6 panes of glass on the top sash. Wrought iron balconetts are placed below all windows and wrought iron lamps are placed on the projecting walls of the porch.

A simple molding follows the low truncated elliptical arch of the front door and is duplicated in the top of the casement windows. The porch is concrete with brick trim and a low concrete wall with brick accent. The recessed front door is further embellished with an overhanging cover repeating the arched trim and adding flared sides. The cover is attached above the door and suspended with heavy chain attached to the façade.

A low hipped composite shingle roof overhangs smooth white plaster walls with plain exposed eaves, without brackets. The roof has a central section flanked by two wings following the curved façade.

The land slopes from front to rear allowing for basement windows along the sides and the rear elevation. The rear elevation features a central recessed balcony with arched French doors, in the style of the front side windows. A screened porch is located on the left and a bow window made of glass block and wood uprights has been added to the right. An asymmetrical window pattern forms a row above the second floor balcony.

The home is held in the Bobby J. Merritt Trust. Bobby, a 50-year resident of Redlands was born in 1929 in Midland Texas. Bobbie met her husband, Lt. Col. Edward Allen Merritt on a blind date when stationed in Fort Worth, Texas. They married in 1947 and celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2007.

Prior to settling in the Cypress house in 1962 and during Ed’s military career, the couple moved 11 times. Along the way, they had five children each born in a different state. Bobbie was an active volunteer at the Sacred Heart Church and others. Bobby was artist and enjoyed wood carving, painting, bronze sculpture casting and set designs for the drama department at Redlands High School.

Ed served in U.S. Army Air Corps in the South Pacific and was decorated 11 times. Ed earned a degree in electrical engineering and had a second career in the aerospace industry. Ed enjoyed working with glass and created many beautiful glass pieces.

It is with great pleasure that the Redlands Area Historical Society presents this Heritage Award to the Merritt family in recognition of more 60 years of care for this historic property.

Researched by: Leslie Irish

17 June 2013