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A New Quilt from Old Blocks

By Nelda Stuck

A.K. Smiley Public Library Heritage Room recently received for the Museum of Redlands a hand-made quilt related to the Inland Empire.

The quit features quilt blocks depicting historic buildings of East Highlands which were hand-screen-printed by Marilyn Pace from original drawings by Karen Campbell in the 1980s.

The quilt was designed and made in January by Bernice Foster and Nelda Stuck, both residents of Redlands and members of Citrus Belt Quilters.

A set of three identical (and very collectable, sought-after) muslin blocks came to the Heritage Room last summer from the estate of Margaret Wright, who died in 2019 but had resided in East Highlands and was the first woman elected and then served four terms on the San Bernardino Municipal Water District Board. She had farmed pioneer citrus groves with her father, Henry Cram Jr., and graduated from Redlands High School in 1953. She had also served on the Gold Buckle Packing House board.

Margaret's daughter Lisa McComber, now living in Illinois, asked Yucaipa artist Carol Hamilton to see if the Museum of Redlands would like the box of quilt blocks. When it was discovered the box contained not only three sets of blocks but also careful identification of all the historic buildings depicted, the Heritage Room agreed that making one set into a quilt would be a good way to display them.

Then, East Highlands historical remembrances began to surface, with Hamilton seeing the "Hamilton House" depicted and relating how her husband's great-grandfather had hand-hewn the rocks for the foundation. The family in the '70s had hoped to restore the house, "which had good bones, but (renovation) wasn’t meant to be."

Years later, when the Hamilton family no longer owned the property, they watched as the house was burned to the ground as a fire training exercise.

Lisa McComber, seeing a photo of the finished quilt, emailed her memories of East Highlands: "It truly was a lovely place to live and grow up in, and none of us knew just how much it would change. Riding horses out of the driveway where the dogs followed along off leash for hours through many biomes. Who knew? I knew nothing different and took it all for granted."

The quilt caused McComber to reminisce of "going back in time to old East Highlands where you know everyone and have to drive 15 minutes to the grocery store."

Structures depicted which are no longer standing include: Cram School, Cram House, Santa

Fe Station, East Highlands Market, Phillipino Village, East Highlands Citrus Association, Hattery House, Hamilton House, Beattie House, and Gold Buckle Packing House. Others blocks show the McLean House, Cram/Wright House, Stone House, Castle House and St. John Bosco Church.

East Highlands resident Carol Kiel Ray remembers that the homeowners were given the original drawing of their home and that note cards were sold which featured many of the buildings.

Block artists Pace and Campbell (now Mahmoudi) wrote in their directions for using the blocks, their hope that everyone "will share the love of the charm and beauty of these buildings with those around you."

Pictured above holding the completed quilt are Bernice Foster and Nelda Stuck.

Below: Complete quilt. Both photos by Monte Stuck.

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