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Mohonk to Redlands: The Smiley Connection

the A. K. Smiley Memorial Library

Albert and Alfred Smiley led the effort to fund and build the A. K. Smiley Memorial Library (in the background), donating parks and public spaces and beautifying the growing city of Redlands.

Though the headquarters of Esri, in Redlands, California, is 2,200 miles from New Paltz, New York, there is a strong connection spanning that distance that has been built over 120 years by the Smiley family.

In 1869, twin brothers Albert and Alfred Smiley established the Mohonk Mountain House resort on a mountain lake halfway between the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains in New York State. Founded on Quaker principles to refresh the spirit of its guests with emphasis on promoting friendships and inspiration from nature, this grand Victorian hotel became one of the most prominent summer resorts in the United States. The Smileys built carriage roads and summer houses to emphasize scenic vistas and make nature more accessible. Alfred went on to start Cliff House in 1879 and Wildmere in 1887, resorts at nearby Minnewaska Lake, with a network of carriage roads connecting to Mohonk.

Through its beginning decades, Mohonk would close for the winter months, allowing maintenance and preparation for the next season. Alfred's son Frederick, looking for other opportunities outside New York, ventured to Southern California and discovered a growing city in Redlands with a spectacular vista of the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains. In 1889, Alfred, suffering from rheumatism, was lured to join his son in the warm climate of Redlands. Alfred in turn convinced Albert to join him, and together, they assembled Canyon Crest Park. The Smileys would make their winter home in Redlands. The beautiful gardens of the estate they created were open to the public, attracting thousands of tourists each year to the city of Redlands.

Albert and Alfred were famous for their philanthropy and civic service, becoming known as Redlands' "patron saints." The twins led the effort to fund and build the A. K. Smiley Memorial Library, donating parks and public spaces and beautifying the growing city of Redlands—giving their fellow citizens opportunities for culture and beauty that continue today.

Alfred died at 74 years old, in 1903, in Redlands. Albert died 9 years later, also in Redlands. Both led accomplished lives of social action. The vision of the twins continues to thrive, as Mohonk was recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme in 1994 for 125 years of environmental stewardship. The benevolent heritage that was passed down through the Smiley family eventually led the twins' descendants to form the Mohonk Trust in 1963 to further a concerned understanding among humans and between humans and nature. In 1978, the trust split into Mohonk Consultations, promoting peace and sustainable use of the earth, and the Mohonk Preserve, a 7,000-acre member-supported nature preserve dedicated to environmental education and stewardship of the land.

See also "What Makes New York's Shawangunk Mountains One of the "Last Great Places"?"

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