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Mission Inn
MissionInn SpanishWing.jpg
Mission Inn, Riverside, California
Location 3649 Mission Inn Ave, Riverside, California
Built 1902–1932
Architect Multiple
Architectural style Mission/Spanish Revival
Restored 1985–1992
Restored by Duane & Kelly Roberts
NRHP reference No. 71000173
Significant dates
Added to NRHP May 14, 1971
Designated NHL May 5, 1977

The Mission Inn, now known as The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, is a historic landmark hotel in downtown Riverside, California. Although a composite of many architectural styles, it is generally considered the largest Mission Revival Style building in the United States. Mission Inn Hotel & Spa is a member of Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The owners are Duane and Kelly Roberts. The latter serves as vice chairman and chief operating officer.

History

The property began as a quaint adobe boarding house called The Glenwood Cottage, built by engineer/surveyor Christopher Columbus Miller and on November 22, 1876, the Millers took their first paying guest. In February 1880, Miller's son Frank Augustus Miller purchased the hotel and land from his father. It became into a full-service hotel in the early 1900s due to California's economic citrus boom and warm weather, attracting wealthy travelers and investors from East Coast and Europe. In 1902, Frank changed the name to the "Glenwood Mission Inn" and started building, in a variety of styles, until he died in 1935.

Mission Inn Interior
Mission Spanish Revival style interior
Mission Inn skybridge Riverside CA
Skybridge between buildings

Miller's vision for the eclectic structure was drawn from many historical design periods, revivals, influences, and styles. Some are Spanish Gothic architecture, Mission Revival Style architecture, Moorish Revival architecture, Spanish Colonial style architecture, Spanish Colonial Revival Style architecture, Renaissance Revival architecture, and Mediterranean Revival Style architecture. With one section over another, addition upon addition, the result is a complicated and intricately built structure. It contains narrow passageways, exterior arcades, a medieval-style clock, a five-story rotunda, numerous patios and windows, castle towers, minarets, a Cloister Wing (with catacombs), flying buttresses, Mediterranean domes and a pedestrian sky bridge among many other features.

During the 30-year construction period, Miller traveled the world, collecting treasures to bring back to the hotel for display.

The St. Francis Chapel houses four large, stained-glass windows and two original mosaics by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1906. The windows were salvaged from the Madison Square Presbyterian Church and the chapel purpose built to house them. The Mexican-Baroque styled "Rayas Altar" is 25 feet tall by 16 feet across, carved from cedar and completely covered in gold leaf. For his "Garden of Bells," Miller collected over 800 bells, including one dating from the year 1247 described as the "oldest bell in Christendom."

In 1932, Frank Miller opened the St. Francis Atrio. The "Famous Fliers' Wall", added by Miller's son-in-law DeWitt Hutchings, was used to recognize notable aviators, including Amelia Earhart. On March 20, 1942, World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker was honored at the inn, becoming the fifty-seventh flier added to the monument. Today, 151 fliers or groups of fliers are honored by having their signatures etched onto 10-inch-wide (250 mm) copper wings attached to the wall.

Frank Miller died in 1935 and the inn continued under the management of his daughter and son-in-law, Allis and DeWitt Hutchings, who died in 1956. The inn then went through a series of ownership changes and some of its older rooms were converted to apartments and used as dorms for UC Riverside. In the early 1960s, St. John's College considered buying it as a location for its western campus but abandoned negotiations when John Gaw Meem donated land in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In 1992, Owner Duane Roberts rescued The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa from the brink of demolition, resurrecting the property’s iconic Spanish Mission-style opulence while modernizing the hotel with comfort, technology, culinary, shopping, wedding, and spa amenities. His wife, Owner, Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Kelly Roberts, oversees the AAA Four Diamond-rated Mission Inn and maintains its lofty hospitality standards. The couple brings to life annual events such as the Festival of Lights, Feste dell’Amore, the Pumpkin Stroll, as well as immersive additions like Conde Nast award-winning Kelly’s Spa and Boutique and dynamic culinary venues.

Architecture

Mission Inn at Night
Mission Inn courtyard during Festival of Lights
MissionInn SpanishWingClock
Clock overlooking the Spanish Wing.

With its widely varying styles, the Mission Inn was designed by multiple architects. Frank Miller selected Arthur Burnett 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.

Notable guests

For 140 years, the Mission Inn has been the center of Riverside, host to U.S. Presidents, celebrities, a number of seasonal and holiday functions, as well as occasional political functions and other major social gatherings. Pat and Richard Nixon were married in what is now the Presidential Lounge, Nancy and Ronald Reagan honeymooned there, and eight other U.S. presidents have visited the inn: Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Gerald Ford, and George W. Bush.

Social leaders who have stopped at the Mission Inn include Susan B. Anthony, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Huntington, Albert Einstein, Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst, Hubert H. Bancroft, Harry Chandler, Booker T. Washington, Helen Keller and John Muir.

The list of entertainers who have toured the inn is extensive. Lillian Russell, Sarah Bernhardt and Harry Houdini were early visitors to Frank Miller's hotel. Other guests have included actors such as Ethel Barrymore, Charles Boyer, Eddie Cantor, Mary Pickford, Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis (who was married at the inn in 1945), W.C. Fields, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, Fess Parker, James Brolin and Barbra Streisand, Raquel Welch and Drew Barrymore. Other celebrities such as Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Glen Campbell, Merle Haggard and Tears for Fears have stopped by.

The inn continues to be a getaway for notable individuals to this day. Arnold Schwarzenegger has stayed there during his tenure as governor of California and the Osbournes have paid a visit in the past few years.

Today

Missioninntowers
Don O'Neill, Mission Inn Towers. Watercolor.

The hotel, which occupies an entire city block, has 4 restaurants, a day spa and 239 guest rooms (nine rooms designated as presidential suites). It is a National Historic Landmark, a California Historical Landmark, and Riverside City Landmark #1. The hotel's aesthetic charm makes it a frequent subject for local artists.

Dining

The hotel features four restaurants and two lounges.

Mission Inn Museum

The Mission Inn Museum promotes the cultural heritage of the Mission Inn. It is operated by the Mission Inn Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization (Tax ID 51-0205032). A permanent exhibition features the history of the inn as well as inland Southern California history. The main gallery hosts changing exhibitions which rotate 2-3 times per year. The museum offers educational programs and daily guided tours. Specialty tours on the Women of the Mission Inn, the hotel's fine art collection, photography tours, and architecture tours are offered on a quarterly basis. The Hands On History Outreach Program is an award-winning educational workshop series that provides opportunities for middle school students to connect with their local heritage through oral history interviews, photography, technology, and public speaking. Youth Ambassadors is a high school docent program which encourages civic engagement, leadership, and confidence in youth ages 15–18. The daily guided tours are the museum's most popular attraction, hosting over 20,000 guests per year.