The Smiley Brothers

The Smiley Brothers

An Idea is Born

In December of 1891, several prominent citizens joined together to secure a public library. Alfred Smiley, one of Redlands’ winter residents from the East, became a prime mover in the crusade. After two years of effort, prodding the city trustees, and with detailed studies completed, a vote brought forth a public library in Redlands. Dedicated on February 22, 1894, public acceptance of the REDLANDS PUBLIC LIBRARY was enthusiastic.

The library was located in the Y.M.C.A. building, but soon after it began to operate, the need for a larger and permanent headquarters became apparent. Throughout 1896, Alfred Smiley discussed future library plans with his twin brother Albert K. Smiley. Alfred’s desire for a library building coincided with Albert’s wish to provide a downtown park for the enjoyment of Redlands citizens. By March of 1897, Albert K. Smiley had purchased sixteen acres of downtown land to build Redlands its new library building.

A.K. SMILEY PUBLIC LIBRARY and surrounding Smiley Park, so named by a grateful city council in honor of the donor, was dedicated on April 29, 1898. In order to complete his personal philanthropy, Albert Smiley had to borrow $40,000. In all, the library and park cost him over $60,000.

A.K. Smiley Public Library was designed in Moorish style (similar to but distinct from “mission”) by T.R. Griffith. When completed the Smiley featured walls of solid brick with hand-cut stone trimmings and a roof of heavy red tiling. Albert Smiley also furnished the entire building with desks, chairs, tables, and stacks–all fashioned from oak. Gargoyles, griffins, and other carving adorned the library interior. The stained-glass windows feature symbolism associated with learning and libraries.

The needs of the library had grown so quickly that Albert Smiley added a $12,000 reference extension. And in 1920, Daniel Smiley, a younger brother, added a wing which cost $10,000. Through the generosity of Eldridge M. Lyon, additional wings were added to the Library in 1926 and 1930. In 1990, a major remodeling, restoration and expansion took place, the result of a city bond. Unique in its architecture, an official point of historical interest on the National Register of Historic Places and a California State Landmark, A.K. Smiley Public Library has been fortunate through the years to enjoy the support of many friends, especially its many patrons. While placing a special reverence on its past heritage, the Library continues its public stewardship of meeting present community needs and by planning for future growth, services, and opportunities of the “information age”.

The Story of the Pansies

Planted each year in the library flower beds are large hybrid pansies in honor of the twin Smiley brothers, who share a March 17 birthday (also known as Saint Patrick’s Day), and whose favorite flower was the pansy. The Smiley brothers became known as Redlands’ “Patron Saints” and every March 17th is observed as a special day in Redlands.

1990 Expansion:

" The addition is configured in two wings, each with a single story and a basement. The wings house adult services, historical and rare books, a children’s room, and support services. The design and materials are in harmony with the older structure. Existing interior spaces were redesigned to function more efficiently. Landscape plans include two formal gardens between the new and old wings. All plans were subject to review by the State Office of Historic Preservation and met the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation."

— From The Historic Resource Facilities 1997 Review published by the American Institute of Architects, October 1997.


Area of Buildings:

  • 33,000 GSF (existing)
  • 10,000 GSF (addition)