Andreson Family

The Andreson Family

By John C. Funk

(Originally Published in the January, 1981
Odyssey Newsletter by the San Bernardino Historical & Pioneer Society)

John Andreson, Sr.
John Andreson, Sr. Photo
(courtesy of San Bernardino Historical & Pioneer Society.

John Andreson, Sr., was born on January 28, 1834 in Schleswig Holstein, near the border of Denmark and Germany. He came to South America as a cabin boy in 1850 on a sailing vessel around Cape Horn. He landed on Peruvian Guano Islands, where they loaded and remained a short time, then went to Liverpool, England. He came back again in 1852, on the same boat, and spent six months in the Argentine Republic and then came to California around the Horn. He was a seafaring man along the coast for many years, owning vessels in San Francisco Bay. He also ran a river boat up the Sacramento, engaged in the grain business.

In 1861 he started a grocery business in San Francisco, but the occupation was too sedentary for him and he could not stand its confinement, so in 1863 he sold out and went to La Paz, Arizona, and with a practical brewer he started a brewery there which was very successful, accumulating what was considered in those days quite a fortune, mostly in gold dust. He returned to California in 1871, intending to settle in San Francisco, but he stopped in San Bernardino on his way, and went no farther.

His first act was to buy an acre of land on the northwest corner of Third and E Streets, on which was a small brewery. He enlarged the plant to a thirty barrel daily capacity and ran it until 1884, when he sold out his interest in the brewery. He had in the meantime erected a brick block on the property in 1872. In 1887 he built the first Andreson Building, a three-story brick block considered at that time the best in the city. It contained eighty rooms and was occupied by the St. Charles Hotel, with offices and stores on the ground floor.

In 1888, with H. L. Drew, Mr. Andreson built the post office block, corner of E and Court Streets, and he was also one of the owners of the Stewart Hotel. He was one of the organizers of the Farmers Exchange Bank, served as a Director from its organization and was afterward its President. Many of the finest buildings in that period of San Bernardino's development were built by Mr. Andreson and his partner, H. L. Drew, and due to their foresight the city flourished wonderfully. They realized San Bernardino would grow and made it thrive by erecting substantial buildings. They were projectors of the D Street horse car line, and were two of the four far seeing men to whose personal efforts is due to securing of the depot and work shops of the Santa Fe Railroad Company.

Mr. Andreson served as a San Bernardino County Supervisor, representing the third Supervisorial District, from October 1, 1877, to January 5, 1880 and the Fifth District from January 8, 1883, to January 5, 1885. He was Chairman of the Board during both terms and served with his old friends, James W. Waters, Lewis Cram, Don Cornelius Jensen, and George Cooley, to look out for the interests of the taxpayers.

He also served on the Board of Trustees and was largely instrumental in securing for the city its complete sewer system. He was a member of the Library Board for many years, was Treasurer for Phoenix Lodge, I.O.O.F., a valued member of the Pioneer Society, and in the early days was among the first volunteer firemen of the city - in all of which he performed his part well. He died at the residence of his daughter, Mrs. Walter Kohl, 633 Fourth Street, San Bernardino, on January 13, 1912, one of the most highly respected citizens of the County. He left his wife Emma Knapp, and five children; Emma, John, Jr., William J., Francis L., and Edmund Knapp.

John Andreson, Jr.
John Andreson, Jr., in 1902

John Andreson Jr., was born on January 7, 1873, in San Bernardino, California, at the old adobe family homestead which formerly stood at the site of the former St. Charles Hotel on Third Street, just west of "E" Street. He was the second child, and eldest son, of the five children born to John and Emma (Knapp) Andreson. Mr. Andreson, Sr., was a native of Schleswig Holstein, near the Denmark/German border, and became a highly respected banker and businessman in San Bernardino after settling here in 1871.

John Andreson, Jr. was educated in San Bernardino's private schools and in the Sturges Academy, from which he was graduated in 1891. His first employment was as a surveyor with the Santa Fe Railroad in 1891. He left this job in 1892 and, under his father's guidance, entered the service of the Farmers' Exchange Bank. (This bank had been co-founded in about 1888 by Andreson, Sr., who served as a Director, and later President, for many years.)

John, Jr., began his banking career as a collector, but soon filled various positions up to cashier and later as Vice-President. He resigned from the bank in 1908, but retained his seat on the Board of Directors for many years thereafter. During his service with the Farmers' Exchange Bank he was also the Secretary-Treasurer of the Savings Bank of San Bernardino from January, 1906, to October, 1910. He was that bank's Vice-President from October, 1917 to April, 1920.

When is father died in 1912, Mr. Andreson, Jr., devoted the majority of his time to the Andreson Company, a Real Estate Holding Company within the Andreson family which erected San Bernardino's then-largest office building complex at the northwest corner of Third and "E" Street in 1927. The Company also operated and managed the Andreson family's property holdings in several Southern California communities.

John Andreson, Jr., was elected to the San Bernardino County's Board of Supervisors, representing the Fifth Supervisorial District and succeeding the four month appointment of James E. Russell. Mr. Andreson served as a Supervisor from November 23, 1926 to December 2, 1940, and here he also emulated his distinguished father who was a Third District Supervisor from 1877 to 1880 and 1883 to 1885. Mr. Andreson, Jr., was in office when the San Bernardino County Flood Control District was conceived in 1938, approved by the State Legislature in April, 1939, and initially staffed in July, 1939. This long contemplated action was deemed a necessity when the great flood of early March, 1938, wreaked such extensive devastation throughout San Bernardino County, along with much of Southern California.

Mr. Andreson was acutely aware of the dangers from forest fires and the constant necessity for intelligent forest conservation. During the 12,900 acre mountain fire, which raged from July 25th to August 4th, 1911, Mr. Andreson made forty-six trips to the firelines and, along with hundreds of others, fought it every inch of the way before finally overcoming it. He fully recognized the dangers to farms, homes and businesses in the valley from the winter rains following these watershed burns and concerned himself with flood protection measures which could harness the Santa Ana River, Lytle Creek, and the other streams which drained the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains. Hence, he gave his full support and endorsement to the establishment of the new Flood Control District.

At age 67, and not a well man, Mr. Andreson did not seek re-election to the Board of Supervisors in November, 1940, and retired from public service. He was voted a life membership in the County Employee's Association at his retirement ceremony. He had held office in the San Bernardino Chamber of Commerce, was a Past-President of the San Bernardino County Historical Society, a Director of the Rancheria Water Company, a member of the Board of Directors of the San Bernardino Thrift Loan Company, and was one of the sponsors and most diligent workers for the "High-Gear" road to Crestline. Mount Andreson, in the San Bernardino Mountains, was named for him. He devoted much of his time to water conservation problems and to fire prevention in the mountain areas. He was elected President of the Santa Fe Federal Savings and Loan Association on July 21, 1030, and held that position until he died.

A pioneer in the valley's citrus fruit industry, Mr. Andreson owned vast citrus acreage in the County, much of it in the Rialto and Highland Districts. He was at one time the President of the Rialto Fruit Company, an orange packing and distributing firm. For many years he was a member of the San Bernardino Board of Education and was on the Library Board for two years. He was an avid motion picture fan and had taken thousands of feet of film of his various automobile trips throughout the United States.

In addition to his many business and civil interests, Mr. Andreson was widely known for his interest in charitable work and fraternal organizations. He was a member of San Bernardino Lodge #348, F. & A.M.; Keystone Chapter #56, Royal Arch Masons; San Bernardino's Commandery #23, Knights Templar; Al Malaidan Temple, Shrine; and Knights of Pythias of Highland. He was thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason; a charter member of the San Bernardino Elks Lodge, and a long-time member of the Local Lions Club. He was a Grand Trustee of the Native Sons of the Golden West in 1920, for years a member of the Arrowhead Parlor of the Lodge (46 consecutive years of that time as treasurer of the Parlor), and a charter member of the Past-Presidents Association of the State Lodge and the only man to hold office of Grand Director of the Arrowhead Parlor.

John Andreson, Jr., died at his home on November 27, 1941. He was survived by his widow, Minnie Elizabeth Riley; their two children, John Andreson III of Pasadena and Laura Frances Andreson, an art instructor at U.C.L.A.; two grandchildren, Deborah Frances Andreson and John Andreson IV; two sisters, Mrs. O.H. Kohl of Pasadena and Mrs. Walter Kohn of Los Angeles; and an uncle, Jacob Andreson of San Diego.

So highly respected was this dedicated man that flags on all City and County buildings and offices in San Bernardino and nearby communities were lowered to half mast out of great respect to the memory of John Andreson, Jr.


By Thelma Press

Andreson Building
The Andreson Building built in 1927 as it stands today.

While John Andreson, Jr., accomplished many things during his lifetime, he will probably be remembered more for his efforts in the design and construction of the Andreson Building at the northwest corner of E and Third Streets. He insisted that the building was not a monument to himself, but to his father, for after John Andreson, Sr., died in January 1912, his friends remarked he had often discussed building a new and more imposing office structure to replace the old hotel building on that corner. Unfortunately the project would remain in limbo for over a decade because of unsettled financial conditions existing before, during, and after WWI. It was only through the diligent efforts of son John, Jr. that the project was finally completed in 1927.  It is not surprising that he chose Howard E. Jones as Architect for the project. Jones was one of the southland's most respected designers, credited with many fine structures including the new Harris Department Store. He also designed the offices of the original ground floor tenant of the Andreson Building, the Merchant National Trust and Savings Bank (later absorbed by the Bank of America, who moved their offices there). It was done in selected decorative tiles, marbles and granites and was hailed by the press as, "The most beautiful banking quarters in the San Bernardino Valley". General Construction Company erected the building while Ezell Company and George L. Black served as electrical consultants.

The Andreson Building was originally L-shaped in design, with a 56-ft South frontage on Third Street and a 148-ft frontage on E Street, and contained over 63,000 square feet of office space within its basement, mezzanine and five-story structure. The ground floor was enlarged in 1959, when additional frontage on Third Street was acquired, but the upper floors remained unaltered. There was also a three-story Annex on the northern end of the building, which was occupied for many years by the Kress 5 & 10 cent store.

Architect Jones styled the building in a modern classical design, with a simplicity contrasting sharply with many of its neighboring structures, which favored either renaissance or art deco renderings. Its first tenants - besides the bank - included a quality clothing store and a jewelry store. It is significant that the introduction of molding at the 23-ft level - above the sidewalk - permitted the use of any variety of window design, without affecting the overall design of the building. Thus the store fronts could be modified, as they were over a period of years.

When redevelopment measures were originally contemplated in early 1960, a survey of existing properties was undertaken in the downtown area. The Andreson Building, with its outstanding position at the northwest corner of Third and E was one of three considered structurally sound enough and design-worthy enough to remain as a part of the new plan. One of the remaining two buildings, the Harris Department Store, occupies the opposite corner on the south side of Third. All others were removed from an area comprising some 10 square blocks.

A number of streets in the vicinity were re-directed from their original format. A large two-story shopping complex was developed, with an enclosed Mall on the spot where Third Street was once aligned. It occupies most of a six-square block area west of E Street and parking for 3,500 cars was provided at the perimeter. The Andreson Annex was removed and a multi-level garage now occupies that space.

The space between the Andreson Building and the Harris Store was transformed into an attractive entrance courtyard at the east end of the new Central City Mall. The north-south E Street remains the main business artery through the central section. New civic, financial and commercial buildings have been erected along the street, including a new City Hall, located directly across E Street from the Andreson Building. A pedestrian bridge spans E Street, joining the City Hall with the second level of the Central City Mall and Andreson Building.

The Andreson Building is presently undergoing a renovation and renewal program. Although the private owner has removed its storefronts and interior partitions at ground level, few changes are contemplated for the rest of the building, with offices and corridors and general décor left as the originally were.

While that area around the Andreson Building has undergone a complete change, this fine old edifice will continue to play its original role as a quality business and office facility at the focal center of the community; a fitting monument to the Andreson family for their century of service to our community.