Mission Inn

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

Mission Inn, Riverside, California
Mission Inn, Riverside, California

The core of the property was a 2-story, 12-room abode boarding house called the "Glenwood Cottage", begun by Christopher Columbus Miller in 1876. It predated the founding of Riverside. Miller's son Frank expanded the boarding house in 1902 and essentially continued obsessively building, in a wild variety of shapes, until he died in 1935.

The building now occupies an entire city block.

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 Christiandom".

In the context of other important cultural loses in Riverside, the hotel was closed in 1985, restored at a cost of $55 million, and re-opened in 1992. As of 2005 it is an operating hotel with multiple restaurants and about 250 guest rooms and suites, each of them with unique views and features. Reportedly the most spacious and comfortable are the Moorish rooms along "Author's Row".

For 125 years it has been the literal 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 is a National Historic Landmark and a California Historical Landmark.

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