Structure Type: built works - social and civic buildings - monuments; works of art - sculpture - public sculpture

Designers: Grey, Elmer, Architect (firm); Elmer Grey (architect)

Dates: constructed 1932

1 story

125 West Vine Street
Redlands, CA 92373

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English-born Robert Watchorn (1858-1944) immigrated to the US as a child, worked in the PA coal industry from age 11, and eventually got into the oil business, becoming Treasurer for the Union Oil Company and President of his own successful wildcatting firm, the Watchorn Oil and Gas Company. At the onset of World War I, he and his wife, Alma Jessica Simpson Watchorn (1865-1946), had one surviving son, Emory Ewart Watchorn (1895-1921), who became a pilot in the US Army Air Service in 1916. By 1918, he had joined the 13th Aero Squadron (under the command of future New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia [1882-1947]) flying Caproni bombers with the Royal Italian Air Force over the Austrian front. Austrian anti-aircraft fire disabled his plane during a night mission, wounding him, and forced him to make an emergency return to his Foggia, Italy airbase. Complications from his wounds finally led to blood poisoning and his death in the summer of 1921. Previously, the Watchorns had lost their first son, and the death of Emory proved to be a serious blow. Robert Watchorn was an ardent admirer in Abraham Lincoln (as many were during this period of the "Cult of Lincoln,") and he and his wife decided to create a permanent monument to memorialize the assassinated president and their war-hero son. (Alma's birthday was on 02/10/1865, which may also have increased the importance of Lincoln's birthday for the Watchorns.) They commissioned the well-known Pasadena architect, Elmer Grey (1872-1963) to design the dual shrine. Architect Grey, writing in the Architect and Engineer in 10/1932 stated of the Lincoln Memorial Shrine in Redlands, CA: "The Shrine was presented to the City of Redlands by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Watchorn, who built it to honor Lincoln and show forth his character as an ideal to follow, and also in memory of their son, Emory Ewart Watchorn, who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War. They chose Redlands as a location for it because of the beauty of the city and its surroundings and the unusual cultural quality of its citizens. They felt that the interest of these citizens was certain to make them reliable trustees of the Shrine for all time." (See Elmer Grey, "The Lincoln Shrine and Two Other Buildings," Architect and Engineer, 111:1, 10/1932, p. 11.) The Lincoln Memorial Shrine was completed in three phases. The original octagonal building composed of a reinforced concrete structure and clad in Bedford, IN, limestone, was finished in 1932. Text from Lincoln's speeches were cut into the limestone. Grey's design called for the construction of two wings, each 75 feet long, to be placed on either side of the limestone octagon. The Depression depleted the finances of Robert and Alma Watchorn, making it impossible to erect the wings. In place of the winga, they directed the creation of contemplative gardens with pools, inscribed limestone panels and a fountain, completed by 1937, to flesh out the memorial. Beginning in mid-1993, fund-raising began for the construction of the originally-envisioned wings; full realization of the Watchorn's original scheme occurred on Lincoln's Birthday, 02/12/1998.

Tel: 909.798.7632 (2011);

PCAD id: 16627