Historic Rancho Cucamonga home renamed to recognize María Merced Williams – San Bernardino Sun

The historic John Rains House hasn’t changed much since the 1860s. But it has a new name.

At its June 28 meeting, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted to rename the historic site to the “María Merced Williams and John Rains House.”

Originally built between 1860 and 1861, Rains built the house after purchasing the Rancho Cucamonga land grant in 1858. A prominent businessman, he opened what is believed to be California’s first commercial winery before his violent death in 1862. Much of his fame was due to the lavish parties hosted at the house.

The home at 8810 Hemlock St. in Rancho Cucamonga was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Today, it’s part of the San Bernardino County Museum system.

But Rains did not build it all alone. The land the house stands on originally belonged to his wife, María Merced Williams, who had inherited it from her father, Chino ranch owner Isaac Williams. And perhaps more importantly, she was the granddaughter of Don Antonio Maria Lugo, the prominent landowner who first colonized the San Bernardino and Yucaipa valleys.

Tuesday’s vote was an attempt to correct the record by including Merced in the spotlight.

“One of our deep focuses, especially since I’ve been there, is that we want to be very inclusive in our storytelling,” museum director Melissa Russo said Thursday. “It seems like a minor thing, the name of it, but honestly, when a young girl in town looks around at the landmarks, it really renders women invisible when they’re not part of the story.”

Among those championing the renaming was Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford.

“Maria Merced’s contributions to this historic home and the broader community have been overlooked for many years. Adding her name helps correct that disservice and will, I hope, inspire people to learn more about Merced and our local history,” she wrote in a statement on Thursday.

Around the nation, historic homes are typically named after men, according to Russo.

“It really diminishes the role of women in society,” she said. “Too often we neglect women entirely or relegate them to the background or in supportive roles.”

And in Rains’ case, excluding his wife from the name of the site makes very little sense, according to Russo.

“Do you think John Rains was the one planning those lavish parties?” she said. “If those parties helped build his social capital, why isn’t she part of the story?”

Other than new signs — costing the county less than $5,000, according to the staff report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting — no other major changes at the site art planned, according to the county.

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