Von Kaesborg Home


The Redlands Area Historical Society, Inc.

The von Kaesborg Residence

  121 East Sunset Drive


Mutual Orange Distributors general manager C. P. “Christie” Earley commissioned local architect/builder Garrett Huizing to construct this beautiful Spanish Revival residence in 1930. Situated on a 2½-acre knoll across Sunset Drive from his own model home, it was part of Huizing’s new development overlooking the Redlands Country Club. Newspapers of the day estimated the cost at $20,000.

Mr. Earley lived there with his wife Grace and their children. Unfortunately, he was unable to enjoy his new abode for long as he died of heart disease and acute indigestion in 1935. After renting it for a few years Grace sold the property to Nikolai and Mary von Kaesborg.

Born in Riga, Latvia, Nikolai served as a captain in the czarist Russian navy, winning several decorations. During the subsequent revolution, he became an officer in the Latvian Air Force. He arrived in the United States in 1923 and married Mary Gifford, a daughter of Nebraska’s foremost ophthalmologist. Nikolai became a successful life insurance salesman and the family, now with two boys, Lek and Gifford, moved to Redlands in 1939. The von Kaesborgs were members of Redlands Country Club and Mary was involved in Assistance League.

After Mary’s death, Nikolai moved to Palm Springs for his health, and son Lek and his wife, Velva, moved in with their three children, Lek, Roger, and Susie. “Breakneck Barrister” Lek and his silver Mercedes Benz 300SL had a successful, but brief racing career in the 1950s. Lek was a very politically active Democrat who chaired various local campaigns for prominent party figures. He and Velva attended JFK’s inauguration and the ball afterward. Lek von Kaesborg was appointed a Federal magistrate in 1968. When he passed away in 2015 he was the last founding member of the local Good Guys motorcycle club.

Based upon a style made popular following the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, this two-story domicile is of frame construction with a stucco exterior. A low-pitched, cross-gabled, roof tops the asymmetrical façade. Viewed from the front, the left wing of the house falls back to favor the projection of a shaded porch, or arcade and is surmounted by a railed balcony with a shed roof.

This arcade has four arches, with the front entrance being at the eastern end of the tiled porch.  A local mill produced the hand-carved, paneled wooden front door and its grated window. To the right of the entry arch, a large window is flanked by smaller casement windows. Above are two French doors leading from a bedroom to a “very tastefully constructed wrought-iron balcony.”

Apertures constructed of grilled brickwork accentuate the style. The massive chimney with similar decorative grilled brickwork dominates the eastern elevation. Behind it lie the utility rooms then onto the eastern side, or rear elevation, where windows of various sizes overlook the golf course.

There are no fewer than five levels in the roof lines – all red tiled. The western elevation shows a double garage to the left of the courtyard’s exterior entrance. The courtyard has two embrasures, or half-round windows, and stairs leading to another walled patio. Triangular-shaped tiled vents allow air circulation in the attic area.

New owner Gina Cruz purchased the property from the von Kaesborg estate in 2017. The home was recently restored by Brett Waterman for his DIY network television show. The Redlands Area Historical Society is pleased to present this award to Gina Cruz for her fine stewardship of this Redlands treasure.

Researcher: Marie Reynolds

Presented 11 June 2018