Asistencia, Proud Vestige Of Spanish Era, Conveyed To The Redlands Conservancy

The county has conveyed the grounds of the Asistencia, California Historical Landmark 42 located in Redlands off Barton Avenue near the Redlands/Loma Linda City Limits, to the Redlands Conservancy.
Originally, the Asistencia was established in 1819 as a part of the Mission San Gabriel’s Rancho San Bernardino. Referred to at that time as an estancia, it functioned as an outpost for cattle grazing activities. In 1820 native Americans, directed by Pedro Alvarez, began digging an irrigation ditch, in the Spanish parlance of the time called a zanja. Simultaneously, Carlos Garcia, then the Spanish majordomo or overseer of the Rancho, directed construction of an enramada, a bower/arbor, for worship, as well as an adobe administration building with storerooms, and a residence. Juan Alvarado, who was the majordomo from 1826 until 1834, relocated the Estancia to its present site in 1830, where he constructed a new 14 room complex of adobe and timber. By 1834 the facility was abandoned by the San Gabriel Mission, and the Mexican Decree of Secularization ended mission control in California.
In 1925 the county took possession of the property.
The remnants of the Asistencia were eventually built over and replaced with what succeeding generations intended to be a replica and enhancements to the historical landmark.
On Tuesday November 6, on the recommendations of Terry Thompson and Melissa Russo, the county’s director of real estate services and the director of the county museum respectively, the board of supervisors signed off on the
conveyance of the fee simple interest in The Asistencia to the Redlands Conservancy, a nonprofit corporation, for preservation purposes in accordance with Government Code Section 25376.
According to report coauthored by Thompson and Russo, they considered it to be in the county’s interest to “declare the Asistencia landmark surplus and authorize its conveyance to the Conservancy for preservation purposes” while simultaneously terminating a lease agreement with the Footlighters for joint use of its parking lot. “The Asistencia is a complex of adobe buildings that reflect the rich agricultural and entrepreneurial spirit of early California between 1819 and 1925,” according to Thompson and Russo. “The Asistencia was initially constructed about a mile and a half west of its current location as an outpost for cattle grazing, but then relocated around 1830 to its present site on which a chapel, storeroom, and residence were constructed. It also served as an early polling place when San Bernardino County was newly organized. Previous owners and occupants of the property included the Lugos, Bishop and Mrs. Tenney, and ultimately Dr. Benjamin Barton.”
Those references are to the Lugo family, which had control of the property from 1842 until 1851; Nathan Tenney and his wife, who were officials with the Mormon Church, which had sway over the property from 1851 until 1857; and Dr. Benjamin Barton and his family, who took possession of the Asistencia property from 1857 until 1925.
Brothers Jose del Carmen Lugo, Jose Maria Lugo and Vincente Lugo, along with their cousin Diego Sepulveda, were granted title to the San Bernardino Rancho by the Mexican Governor of California in 1842. Included in the property’s inventory were the abandoned Estancia, a grist mill, a tile kiln, and a lime kiln. Jose del Carmen Lugo repaired the rancho structures and resided at the Estancia until 1851.
In 1851 the Mormon Church purchased Rancho San Bernardino from the Lugos, and that year established the town, later city, of San Bernardino, and in 1853 the County of San Bernardino. Bishop Nathan C. Tenney was assigned to oversee agricultural operations and moved into the Estancia with his wife. Mrs. Tenney became a teacher in a newly organized school located in one room of the complex. The Estancia also served as a polling place for the newly organized county. The area became known as the Mission District, or Old San Bernardino.
In 1854, Lewis and Henry Cram established a furniture factory near the Estancia using the flowing water from the zanja to power their machinery. For two years they manufactured chairs with cowhide seats, tables, cupboards and bedposts from timber that grew along the zanja and in the foothills.
In winter of 1857-1858, the leader of the Mormon Church, Brigham Young, anticipating that the sect he led would soon be at war with the U.S. Government over differences with the James Buchanan administration, called all of the Mormon faithful back to Utah to make a stand in Salt Lake City, and the Mormon Church and most of its members abandoned San Bernardino. In 1859 Dr. Benjamin Barton purchased the Estancia and surrounding lands from the Mormons. He resided in the Asistencia’s adobe buildings, practicing medicine there, until the completion of his own home. The tools, equipment and furnishings in the Asistencia were removed over time for use elsewhere, and the adobe buildings gradually deteriorated.
In 1925 the Estancia lay in ruin. The County of San Bernardino, assisted by the San Bernardino County Historical Society, acquired it from the Barton family. The remaining historic materials were removed, and construction of a new six room structure began in 1926 under the direction of Horace P. Hinckley. Construction was completed in 1937 as a combined effort by the California Emergency Relief Administration and the federal Works Progress Administration.
According to Thompson and Russo, “The property was conveyed to the county… in 1925, and a community group including George Beattie, the Redlands Chamber of Commerce, the Redlands Daily Facts, and the County Historical Society, raised $15,000 for restoring the site after the county’s purchase. The Asistencia has been remodeled over the years, albeit with certain artistic liberties. In 1960 it was dedicated as California Historical Landmark #42. The county museum has been operating this facility for historical tours and special events since that time. The Asistencia is a historically significant landmark, but the complex has been difficult for the county to maintain. The conservancy is an active, local nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Redlands’ heritage through its noteworthy buildings as well as its natural and agricultural open spaces. The conservancy considers acceptance of The Asistencia to be consistent with its mission for preserving unique features within the City of Redlands. The county museum reviewed the opportunities this conveyance presented and determined that it served the public interest and that the conservancy would be accountable for preserving the Asistencia. The conveyance also will include documented personal property and artifacts associated with the site such as pottery, bells, dioramas, artworks, furnishings and tools related to its historical occupancy, as well as traditional furnishings used to operate the facility. Prior to recommending this conveyance, the county did perform significant repairs and upgrades to the facility to ensure it was conveyed in reasonable condition. Those repairs were completed in September 2018, at which time the real estate services department was directed to complete the conveyance to the conservancy. The conveyance can be made to the conservancy in accordance with California Government Code section 25376. However, in the event the conservancy fails to restore and preserve the historical nature of the property for the benefit of the citizens of San Bernardino County; or attempts to sell, lease or otherwise convey the property to any person or entity which is not a nonprofit corporation involved with preserving and researching the history of San Bernardino
County, the county may exercise a right of termination and recover the property. Lease Agreement No 79-719 between the county and the Footlighters, previously approved by the board of supervisors on October 8, 1979, and subsequently amended, provides for visitors to the Asistencia to use approximately 1.2 acres of the adjoining Footlighters’ parking lot.”
Footlighters is a community theater located at 1810 Barton Road in Redlands that has been providing live entertainment since 1945.
According to Thompson and Russo, “As a condition for using the Footlighters’ property, the county agreed to construct and maintain the parking lot, which contains approximately 130 spaces. The parking lot was constructed around 1980 with funds provided by the State of California Park and Recreation Department. The county has provided maintenance for the parking lot as well as contributed a pro-rated share of the property taxes associated with the parking lot area. Early termination of the agreement, which is slated to expire on December 14, 2029, eliminates the county’s continuing obligation to maintain the parking lot and contribute towards the property taxes. The agreement can be terminated with delivery of a notice 120 days’ prior to the effective termination date. The Footlighters have been made aware of the pending termination request and have raised no objection, which may provide that the termination date commence immediately, but no later than 120 days’ from the board approval, which is March 6, 2019.”
Mark Gutglueck

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