Nelda Stuck and Liz Beguelin were appointed by Redlands City Council member Susan Peppler on January 18, 2000, to form a committee to study the feasibility of an historical museum in Redlands. The 13-member committee appointed by the two women began meeting in March 2000. Previous to the first committee meeting, Nelda and Liz met separately with Bill Hardy Jr., president of the A.K. Smiley Public Library Board of Trustees, and library director Dr. Larry Burgess to discuss the possibilities for the museum. Subsequently, the City Council directed that the museum will operate under the library’s jurisdiction much as the Redlands Lincoln Shrine operates today.
The museum board concluded that Old City Hall is the perfect structure and location for the museum, and the Redlands City Council unanimously approved that request on May 2, 2000.
The RHMA elected officers, opened a P.O. box, and began work on its legal status: by-laws, a mission statement, establishing the official name, Articles of Incorporation, a collection policy, and a non-profit 501(c)3 designation. All of this was completed by the first fund-raising event for the museum in November 2000, given by the Contemporary Club of Redlands. The University of Redlands School of Music Children’s Choir gave another fund-raiser; both events were sold out.
Publicity for the museum project also resulted from the Fourth of July Committee selecting the museum as the subject for their 2001 T-shirt.
To date, the RHMA has more than 600 Founding/Charter members. As a thank you to these members, the association presented four lecture programs. The museum’s first one-year exhibit was on display in the lower level of Smiley Library. A Redlands Quilts Show was also presented in May 2002 featuring 70 quilts related directly to Redlands.
In 2002, the Association contracted with Milford Wayne Donaldson, ( an historic preservation architect from San Diego and currently President Barack Obama's chairman of the national historical preservation board) to address issues of handicap access, ADA bathrooms, an elevator, and spatial designations for adaptive reuse of Old City Hall as a museum. The Redlands Cultural Arts Commission provided the funds for this study. The initial study was completed, and the city staff has tentatively approved the plans.
While we wait for the Redlands Police department to vacate Old City Hall, we continue to save historic items for the collection. At first, items were stored in the basement of A.K. Smiley Public Library. Then space became critical, and the City of Redlands provided a vacant three-bedroom house with a security system in which the RHMA installed three rooms-full of steel shelving. RHMA also rents a garage-size business storage unit for our Linotype machine and other large items. A supportive business has housed our 1927 International citrus grove truck for years.
In the summer of 2011 arose the possibility of obtaining the Mutual Orange Distributors (MOD) packing house on Third Street as the museum. Former RHMA board member Clara Mae Clem offered $280,000 to overbid George Krikorian's offer to buy the MOD. Although five Redlands history/preservation groups crowded three Redlands City Council meetings in 2011 to urge saving the historic packing house, the vote went in favor of Mr. Krikorian, who owns all the surrounding property including the historic Santa Fe Station. He has expressed his intent to tear down the packing house and build more room for a Sprouts gourmet market.
Seeing our disappointment at not, at last, having a museum facility, the City Council offered the RHMA a tour of Safety Hall on Brookside and Eureka streets. The building is empty except for one computer room. The Redlands Police Department had left those offices when they were deemed unsafe for their record-keeping (leaks in the roof), and an inadequate building as control center during any major earthquake. The building is considered safe for the public, but not for an emergency command center for the city. The building has been re-roofed and asbestos removed and is available for general public use, but our RHMA board tour showed too many tiny office spaces and load-bearing walls for the building to be suitable for an open museum exhibition space.
As of the beginning of 2012, the City Council has hired Cosment and Associates to select a site for a new Safety Hall, with plans to downsize the original plans for a $42 million police and fire departments headquarters, with a potential bond issue planned. As soon as the Redlands Police Department vacates Old City Hall, that building is due to become our Redlands Historical Museum. The building, art deco in design and constructed in 1941, at present is not compliant for handicap access for the public. RHMA plans a major campaign to raise the renovation funds.
To date, the RHMA has more than 500 Founding and annual membership families.