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33°58′59″N 117°22′22″W / 33.98306°N 117.37278°W / 33.98306; -117.37278

Mission Inn, Riverside, California
Skybridge between buildings

The Mission Inn is a "whimsical, mysterious and slightly bizarre" historic landmark hotel in downtown Riverside, California.


Originally named the Glenwood Cottage, The Mission Inn started out as a 12-room adobe house constructed by Christopher Columbus Miller in 1875. He received the land from the Southern California Colony Association in lieu of three hundred and twenty eight dollars of back wages. Construction was finished in July of the following year and less than three months later a New York City businessman named Albert S. White moved into the house as a paying guest, making him the first patron of the hotel.

In December of 1978, Miller and his son-in-law G.O. Newman built a large addition on the north side of the Glenwood Cottage. This was the first addition to the future Mission Inn that was made expressly for the purpose of housing guests. It included a large dining room, an office, kitchen and several new bedrooms.

Christopher Miller sold the hotel to his son, Frank, in February of 1880 for the sum of five-thousand dollars. Frank Miller, despite having only a few years of formal education, was a successful businessman who paid for the establishment through several small business ventures that he had started with his wife, Isabella. Almost immediately after the purchase, Miller once again added onto the hotel, building a large two-story addition on the west side of the hotel.

Building continued adding to the hotel over next decade, but it was in 1902 that the first major construction was done to build the structure as it appears today. Frank Miller raised money from friends, family and the residents of Riverside to form a stock company. This enterprise funded him the 250 thousand dollars that he required to build a new hotel.

The building now occupies an entire city block. It is often considered an oasis in the middle of a city.

Miller built in reinforced concrete and developed an accomplished, expressive vernacular style drawn from random historical styles. Accumulating one section over another, addition upon addition, the result is an enormously complicated and intricate built environment, comparable to the Winchester House, or to a self-contained medieval European city.

The Mission contains narrow passageways like a Tuscan village, exterior arcades, a prominent medieval-style clock overlooking the Spanish patio, a deep but sun-drenched five-story rotunda, innumerable patios and windows, towers, minarets, a Cloister Wing (with Catacombs), a high pedestrian bridge, and a five-story spiral staircase, among many other features. The 1914 Spanish Wing in itself contains a castle courtyard, open arcades, Mexican tiled roofs, flying buttresses and Mediterranean domes.

Miller also traveled and collected over these thirty years, bringing his treasures back to the hotel for display. The various collections and museum-quality artifacts on the property has an estimated value of $5 million. The St. Francis Chapel houses four large original stained-glass windows and two original mosaics by Tiffany, and the Mexican Baroque Rayas Altar, 25 feet tall, 16 feet across, carved from cedar and covered in gold leaf. For his Garden of Bells, Miller collected over 800 bells, including one dating from the year 1274 and described as the "oldest bell in Christendom".

In the context of other important cultural losses in Riverside, the hotel was closed in 1985, restored at a cost of $55 million, and re-opened in 1992. As of 2006 it is an operating hotel with four restaurants, a day spa and 239 guest rooms with nine rooms designated as presidential suites, each of them with unique views and features. Reportedly the most spacious and comfortable are the Moorish rooms along "Author's Row". The hotel's four restaurants include a Mexican style restaurant named Las Campanas featuring fountains and fire pits under the Californian sky. The Mission Inn Restaurant with Californian and Italian cuisine, seating can be requested to view the exceptional Spanish Patio. Bella Trattoria, a small Italian Bistro located on the Main Street pedestrian walking mall. And Duane's Prime Steak & Seafood, famed as being the only four diamond restaurant in the Inland Valley.

For 125 years it has been the proverbial center of Riverside, host to a number of seasonal and holiday functions, as well as occasional political functions and other major social gatherings. Pat and Richard Nixon were married at one of the two wedding chapels here; the Reagans honeymooned here. The hotel has had nearly ten presidents stay at the Inn, including President William Howard Taft whom Frank Miller had a custom large chair made for Taft to sit in, although it is known he took offense to the size of the chair. The Inn continues to be a getaway for presidents to this day with George W. Bush as the most recent. Arnold Schwarzenegger has also stayed there during his tenure as governor.

Festival of Lights[edit]

Lights along Orange Street

Of its seasonal functions, the Festival of Lights is well known for its nearly three million Christmas lights, and over 400 animated figures. Although the Festival lasts all throughout the holiday season, the day after Thanksgiving is the lighting ceremony. On this day city officials and the owner of the hotel, Duane Roberts, give speeches before fireworks light up the sky and nearly 25,000 people attend annually to view the unique hotel and its holiday decorations. During the festival of lights, exquiste decorations such as musical angels, carolers on the balconies, and a Santa Claus climbing the chimney are featured. In 2007, local band director and trumpet player Mr. Watts played with his quartet at the ceremony.

The hotel is a National Historic Landmark and a California Historical Landmark.


With its widely varying styles, the Mission Inn was designed by multiple architects. Frank Miller selected Arthur B. Benton to design the original building. Miller chose Myron Hunt to design the Spanish Wing added to the rear of the main building. He later hired G. Stanley Wilson to design the St. Francis Chapel. Wilson also added a rotunda featuring circular staircases and a dome.

In the book Frank Miller of Mission Inn (Gale, 1938) that Henry E. Huntington, once called "The Streetcar King of Los Angeles" (and also nephew of the Union Pacific Railway's Collis P. Huntington) contribued one-third of the cost to build the hotel.

External links[edit]

[[Category:Riverside, California]] [[Category:California Historical Landmarks]] [[Category:Hotels in California]] [[Category:Registered Historic Places in California]] [[Category:Tourism in California]] [[Category:National Historic Landmarks in California ]] [[Category:Riverside County, California]]

Notes from the Ester Koltz book.[edit]

The structure was built by Frank A. Miller between 1902 and 1932.

The Inn fills a city block with its Spanish Mission structures which include arches, bell towers, flying buttresses, domes fountains, balconies, etc.

In July of 1976, the Inn was qcquired by the Riverside Redevelopment Agency, the board of directors of which is the Riverside City Council.

The inn was never a mission.

Feb 1880, CC Miller sold the city block with all of its buidlings to his son Frank for 5k dollars. Frank Miller was a successful businessman despite having only a few years of formal education. He paid for the Glenwood Cottage using money he had earned through several small business ventures.

A large 30 room addition was made in 1882.

Trusilver 02:39, 25 March 2010 (UTC)