My friend Sandee, a docent at Kimberly Crest, drove me up a beautiful tree-lined driveway which ended at of one of Redlands’ historical landmarks, Kimberly Crest. For a few minutes, as we enjoyed the view, she played her part as docent and told me the history of this beautiful Victorian home in front of us.
Kimberly Crest was built in 1897 by Mrs. Cornelia A. Hill, a widow from New York. The house is seven thousand square feet. It’s three stories high and sits on six and a quarter acres of lush green land. The property was sold in 1905 to J. Alfred Kimberly (a cofounder of Kimberly-Clark Corporation), and Helen Cheney Kimberly.
As we sat in the car, air conditioning running, her boss knocked on the side window. He invited my friend to take me inside for a private tour. Eleven thousand visitors per year walk through Kimberley Crest-make that eleven thousand and one. Of course, I had my very own tour guide. Usually tours are given Thursday through Sunday from 1:30 to 3:30pm. Prices as follows: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for children five years and younger.
This small castle features a French revival parlor complete with gilt furniture and silk damask wall coverings-a wonderful stroll back into time.
At the end of the tour I walked about the terraced Italian gardens. It’s very peaceful out there with its winding path, fountains, lily and koi ponds. G. Edwin Bergstrom, the Kimberlys son-in-law, designed the Italian gardens. Apparently he did everything to Mrs. Kimberly’s specifications as she was very pleased with her gardens. Today those gardens are, kept, revived and designed by Terence Hernstrom.
Mediterranean borders, cascading fountains, multiple terraces, curved stairways, along with the lily and koi ponds, and even the surrounding orange groves are wonderful reminders of the Italian Renaissance era. As you can imagine it took a while to walk around the grounds but it was worth it.
The gardens and grounds provide an amazing setting for weddings or any other private event. There’s a special spot on the main terrace which has a semicircular nook and a wisteria-covered arbor just for such ceremonies. And then there’s the old Carriage House for the perfect reception.
Mr. and Mrs. Kimberly’s widowed daughter, Mary Kimberly Shirk, lived in the house from 1920 till her death in 1979. Sounds like she was a very generous lady. In 1963 the community of Redlands wanted to raise money to buy Prospect Park which is a thirty-nine acre botanical park adjacent to Kimberly Crest. Mrs. Shirk wanted to motivate people to support this project so she made a promise to give her home to the people of Redlands if the money for Prospect Park was raised.
And indeed, the park was acquired in 1968. True to her word, the Kimberly-Shirk Association, a non-profit corporation was formed. In her will she left the home to the Association for the people of Redlands. Cheers to you Mrs. Shirk.