The Great Freeze of 1913

On this day, 5 January, in 1913, the economy of Redlands, CA, literally froze.  Temperatures dropped to 10-15 F in some areas, representing some of the coldest nights ever measured.  According to Time Magazine, practically the entire citrus crop, the basis of the local economy, was destroyed.  The cold snap lasted for three days:

Icicles hung on the trees in most groves; many of the trees were completely defoliated. The losses of the citrus growers soon became an economic and social disaster for the entire town. In the years following the freeze, Redlands lost 2,000 people, and it was not until after World War I that building and neighborhood development started once again.

The city’s pre-freeze population was 12,500, and it had been doubling every ten years, from less than 2,000 people in 1890 to 5,000 in 1900 and 10,000 in 1910.  This growth had been driven by the citrus industry, which I’ve written about before, and the local growers’ associations, a sample of which included:

  • Bryn Mawr Fruit Growers Association (Mercury and Overland brands)
  • California Citrus Union (Monogram and Camellia brands)
  • Hermosa Vista Rancho (Chariot brand)
  • Mission Citrus Association (Cleopatra brand)
  • Redlands Citrus Association (Newsboy brand)
  • Redlands Co-Operative Association (Nectar brand)
  • Redlands Co-Operative Fruit Association (Juciful and Newsboy brands)
  • Redlands Eclipse Orange Association (Redlands Beauties brand)
  • Redlands Fruit Association (Beauties brand)
  • Redlands Golden Orange Association (Chrysanthemum brand)
  • Redlands Mutual Orange Company (Orange Blossom brand)
  • Redlands Orangedale Association (Rubaiyat and Carefree brands)
  • Redlands Orange Growers’ Association (Poppy, Rose Orange, Chief,  Moon, and Redlands brand)
  • Redlands Orange Producers’ Association (Producer brand)
  • Redlands Orange Company (Marine brand)

And this list is limited to a sample of only Redlands-based growers’ associations, excluding private firms (such as Lyons), neighboring towns (such as Highland and the neighborhood of Greenspot, today part of Mentone), and other crops (such as apples or poppies.)

The freeze didn’t destroy the city and its citrus, but it probably did mark the high point of Redlands’ relative economic and social position in southern California.  Subsequent development never matched the wealth and sophistication of the first phase of the city’s history:

But the slow growth for all those years kept at bay the normal urban commercial creep into old, previously fashionable neighborhoods. Unlike many larger cities where the oldest Victorian homes were torn down for “progress” and streets were widened to accommodate the ever-increasing traffic to downtown, Redlands kept many homes in their original neighborhood form. Had the frost not occurred, Redlands’ commercial and agricultural strength of the 1900s may well have created a much larger city.

This sleepy town now provides perhaps the only intact and living “turn-of-the-century” neighborhoods in Southern California and the Inland Empire. (link)

The fruits of the 1913 freeze, the beautiful domestic architecture of the city, are still here to be seen — the topic for another post.

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