Rich history of the Ferguson House on Franklin Avenue | History |

2022-06-30 18:09:17 By : Mr. Allen Gao

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Ferguson House at 361 Franklin Ave., 1911.

Ferguson House at 361 Franklin Ave., 1911.

Set on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Oak Street in the Nob Hill neighborhood of Redlands Heights, is a two-story, five-bedroom, three-bathroom Georgian-style home with Beaux Arts influence.

Designed by notable Redlands and Pasadena architect F. Garvin Hodson, the plans for the house were developed at the University Club of Redlands in rooms rented by Albert Ferguson, Jr., of Reading, Pennsylvania, and his great-uncle R.D. Millholland of the Redlands real estate firm Harley & Millholland and manager of the Redlands Golden Orange Association after C.M. Brown.

The 9.8-acre parcel along “Oak Alley” was purchased from New York banking heiress and Redlands horticulturalist, Katherine Campbell Meigs of “Tall Trees” (419 Summit Ave., Heritage Award, 1979). The parcel’s two rear corners housed a grove overseer (356 Campbell Ave.) and a grove worker (1368 Oak St.). 361 Franklin has a sister home in 635 West Highland Avenue (Heritage Award, 1995) commissioned by Millholland’s business partner, Percy Harley, who was the University Club’s vice president while Albert Ferguson was in residence.

Both Ferguson and Hodson became members of the club in July 1911, and Harley commissioned Hodson later that year. While similar in exterior architecture, the interior architecture is quite different between the two homes.

The Ferguson House was a gift for his mother, Frances Ferguson, and drew inspiration from her family homes in Reading. 361 Franklin heavily emulates her childhood home, the Sally Ann Furnace Manor House (1791-1881) near Reading, a National Historic Landmark built in 1814 by her grandfather, Jacob Hunter, patentee of one of the first industrial methods of smelting iron ore. The firm produced Civil War Union Army cannonballs.

Other architectural features came from the Ferguson family home in Reading’s Centre District. The Fergusons had amassed an iron and banking fortune through ownership of the Robesonia Ironworks, where the anthracite blast smelting process was developed.

The Robesonia is a National Historic Landmark, served the Panama Canal Authority, Westinghouse and General Electric, and was eventually bought by Bethlehem Steel.

Young Albert’s maternal grandmother, Harriet Millholland Hunter, and his great-uncle R.D. Millholland, were children of James Millholland, one of the builders of America’s first steam locomotive, the “Tom Thumb,” who developed 150 patents for industry standard locomotive components. His innovations included the first use of a bell and a cowcatcher, the hinged piston arm, and coal as fuel.

He was master machinist for the Reading Railroad, founder of the Mount Savage Locomotive Works and president of the largest coal company in the United States, Consolidation Coal Co.

Albert Jr. began inheriting from all these fortunes as early as age 2; these fortunes built the Ferguson family home at 361 Franklin. At age 23, Albert arrived in Redlands to plan and build what would become the family home. It is notable that Nob Hill attracted many occupants and guests who were railroad industry leaders.

A long walkway up demi-lune steps leads to the home’s formerly balustraded veranda at the front entrance. French doors are used extensively both exterior and interior. Upstairs windows recess below the windowsill for ventilation.

Flanking the main house are a porte-cochere to the left and a telescopic kitchen wing to the right. The kitchen wing is original and a cosmetic nod to the historical convention of detaching kitchens from the main house.

The kitchen has a service porch and ice box window, servant’s room and staircase with laundry chute. A grape arbor connected the service porch to the chauffeur’s quarters. The house has decorative boxed eaves.

Upon completion, Mrs. Joseph Pulitzer (Kate Davis), widow and heiress of newspaper mogul Joseph Pulitzer, stayed in the house with her daughter Constance during the 1913 winter social season, after several nights at Pasadena’s Hotel Green.

Another daughter, Edith Pulitzer Moore, and new husband, William Scoville Moore, leased the Dunn House down the street (1621 Garden St., Heritage Award, 2017) for three months while on an around-the-world honeymoon. Moore had worked with Kate for much of 1912 to settle the late Joseph Pulitzer’s estate.

The Pulitzers must have enjoyed Nob Hill, as members of the Pulitzer organization moved to the neighborhood in the 1920s.

The daughter of Pulitzer’s editor-in-chief and her husband later built their house on Grandview, a few blocks away from the Ferguson House.

361 Franklin became the Ferguson’s primary residence thereafter. They attended the Presbyterian Church. During World War I, Albert served as a corporal in a California unit of the Army’s Expeditionary Force. The family employed multiple Azorean Portuguese community members including Rezendes and Jacinto family members.

Adeline and Frank Jacinto’s daughter, Jane Jacinto Mishak, happily recalls spending time at the Ferguson home with “Aunt Fannie” Ferguson reading to her a large wicker chair and playing piano with her.

The Ferguson House has numerous features unique among Redlands great houses and on the West Coast. Evoking their Pennsylvania roots, a colonial-style outdoor brick hearth kitchen and bread oven are at the rear of the house, with metal fixtures likely cast in Reading. Another is the original purpose-built garage and chauffeur’s quarters, with the original mechanic’s pit.

This garage was constructed before American mass adoption of cars and several years before any auto dealership existed in the Redlands area. Frances’ uncle and R.D. Millholland’s brother was a partner in the Duryea Motor Wagon Company, the first American gasoline-powered automobile company, which he brought to Reading.

Frances Ferguson died in January 1940. Albert died August 1940. Both services were at Emmerson-Bartlett before burial in Reading.

From 1940 to 1947, the house was occupied by Fred Honey, Redlands’ Chrysler-Plymouth dealer. In 1954, Redlands Planning Commissioner and park namesake, Ed Hales and his family occupied the house. They sold the estate in 1964; the present 1.1 acres sold to Daniel Masters.

In 1971, the home was sold to Dr. James Milliron, who sold to the present owners, the Dr. David Gusseck family, in 1974. They are the longest-standing owners at 48 years.

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