Redlands Lawn Bowling Club – 2023


The Redlands Area Historical Society, Inc.

Redlands Lawn Bowling Club

411 N. University Street


Formed in 1923 at Smiley Park, the Redlands Lawn Bowling Club is celebrating its 100th anniversary year. The club grew immediately upon its founding and soon membership had tripled, in addition to having a waiting list. By Fall 1923, the club had secured their current location on the grounds of Sylvan Park, dedicated solely for the club use in perpetuity. Initial greens were built at the expense of club co-founder, Melvin Hooper, with the consent of the Redlands City Council, Mayor Brock and co-founder Dr. Frank H. Folkins. By 1926, the club had built their Mission Revival style clubhouse.

 The parapet across the front of the clubhouse roofline is the strongest identifier of Mission Revival style, popular during the 1920s, and epitomized the lifestyle of Southern California. It appealed to the many residents and visitors from both out of state and the country coming to play the fashionable game of lawn bowling. The exterior of the building is finished in stucco to replicate adobe plaster of the missions. Today, the building remains much the same, with an addition of the wooden front patio overhang added decades later.

The original intent of the clubhouse was always as a recreational facility and it is still in use by the original organization today. The lighting over the bowling greens are the original lighting for the club lanes, with the club having spent over $2000 in improving the grounds and installing the lighting in 1926. The lighting, still used today, allows the club and their guests to be able to play the sport outdoors in the conducive climate of Redlands’ evenings. The lights are historic for multiple reasons as this was an unusual feature at the time they were installed.

Melvin Hooper, moved to Redlands in 1919 from Winnipeg, Canada where he had earned a  doctorate and was a Mathematics, Modern Language and Latin professor at Winnipeg College. He became a prominent Redlands real estate and fire insurance salesman, member of Kiwanis and the Redlands Planning Commission, and President of the Redlands Chamber of Commerce. Hooper donated and oversaw the building of the clubhouse, which in turn served as a prototype for his self-financed 1927 Regal Court bungalow apartment complex on South Michigan Street,  a 2008 RAHS Heritage Award winner.

Lawrence Emerson Nelson states in Only One Redlands, Melvin Hooper not only brought the sport of lawn bowling to Redlands, but he also brought international fame. In 1924, Hooper organized and served as the Southern California Lawn Bowling Association’s first President. He assisted in advising and establishing no fewer than 11 lawn bowling clubs throughout Southern California, including Claremont and Long Beach. International teams and tournaments were hosted by the Redlands club with teams from New Zealand, England, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, and more. The club and clubhouse were featured in London’s Bowl News. In 1932, Hooper chaired the World Tournament in Los Angeles staged concurrently with the 1932 Olympic Games on the three-green bowling complex in Exposition Park, adjacent to the LA Coliseum, site of the Olympics. This huge undertaking, staging lawn bowls alongside the Olympics, was the first major international bowls event in the United States.

The Redlands Lawn Bowling Club is on the City Historic Inventory List and a California registered historic resource.

The Redlands Area Historical Society congratulates the Redlands Lawn Bowling Club on sustaining the 100 year tradition of lawn bowling in Redlands and for its stewardship of their 97 year old clubhouse.

Researched and written by Kathleen Beall and Amanda Frye

Presented 12 June 2023