It is fitting that San Bernardino's best-equipped park be named for Fredrick Thomas Perris - for he was a man of many talents and interests. Perris was born in England in 1837, and migrated at twelve with his parents to Australia. There he studied surveying and civil engineering, along with the usual other subjects, and retraced his voyage as far as San Francisco in 1853.
In California, the young surveyor soon found work. Between federal and state jobs, Perris visited San Bernardino and was employed by Lyman, Rich, and Hanks. He became genuinely attached to these men as friends, and returned with them to Salt Lake when the Mormons were recalled.
Perris returned permanently to San Bernardino some fifteen years later, and here, he remained for the rest of his long life. He brought with him an English bride, and together they reared six children in the very fine home on D Street between Sixth and Seventh. Until recently, this house remained furnished in complete detail - unchanged from its condition when Perris died in 1916.
Furnishings, wagon, touring car, carbide gas plant, "upstairs cellar" constructed over an artesian well - all were intact and in perfect condition. Unhappily, this marvelous relic was not preserved: the antiques were trucked to Hollywood for use in period sets, and the house demolished to make way for a used car lot.
During his lifetime, Fred Perris accomplished many things for San Bernardino. He persuaded the Santa Fe officials that it was possible to construct a railway through Cajon Pass, and served as engineer for the project. He surveyed the Valley for many other purposes - for highways, water, and other rail lines. He served as consulting engineer for the builders of Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead. He was in charge of converting Santa Fe's coal-burning locomotives to fuel oil.
Perris was a member of the city's first Board of Water Commissioners, and a member of the Board of Trustees - predecessor of the City Council. He was responsible for Andrew Carnegie's gift of the first public library, and persuaded the steel capitalist to increase his gift and make possible a larger building. His name is also memorialized in Perris Street, as well as in the town of Perris in Riverside County.1
1 Belden, L. Burr, "History in the Making", San Bernardino Sun-Telegram, May 1, 1955.