Mission Inn

Mission Inn

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Mission Inn is a National Historic Landmark hotel in downtown Riverside, California.Occupying an entire city block, this charming, historic inn offers a luxurious stay in its 239 rooms, including 28 suites.Mission Inn began its history in 1876 as the Glenwood - a two-story 12-room adobe boarding house built by Christopher Columbus Miller. Within a span of 30 years, he added three new wings: Cloister Wing (1910), Spanish Wing (1913-1914), and the International Rotunda Wing (1931).Followed by Frank Miller’s death in 1935, the Mission Inn began to be torn down and was sold out in 1956. On December 30, 1992, the Mission Inn was re-opened to the public.Cloister Wing includes the large music room, an art and gift shop and the St. The famous Fliers’ Wall, a monument to pioneers in aviation, is also exhibited.

The "Haunted" Mission Inn

Out of Southern California’s three most haunted destinations (the Whaley House and the Queen Mary comprising the other two), the Mission Inn in Riverside is the most unexpected. It is the most unexpected not because it is or it is not haunted, but because, well, it’s in Riverside. While I have nothing against Riverside – after all, it is was just named the eighth coolest city in America by Forbes Magazine – it is not a place that makes you think of unique architecture, or strange buildings. And yet, Riverside is indeed home to one of the strangest buildings in California (second only to the Winchester Mystery House): the Mission Inn.

The Mission Inn began as a normal hotel under the ownership of Christopher Miller but in 1902, ownership passed to his son, Frank Augustus Miller, who changed the name to the “Mission Inn”, and began adding on to the hotel in a variety of design styles until his death in 1935. The hotel has Moorish Revival architecture, Spanish Colonial architecture, Spanish Gothic architecture, and also is considered the largest Mission Revival style building in the United States. The hotel is a unique architectural work of art and it is also a building that exudes a strange, horror-movie vibe as well. Perhaps because of its brooding gothic elements, or because of the the artifacts within it, the hotel has acquired a reputation of being haunted. There are a number of stories about ghosts in the hotel however, the most popular stories about the hotel being haunted are related to the following areas: Frank Miller’s Room (located in the Northeast Corner of the Fourth Story) Alice Miller’s Room (located in Southeast Corner of the Fourth Story) the “catacombs” being haunted and the hallways of the hotel generally being haunted.

As I mentioned when I was discussing the Queen Mary, @losadventura and I have seen too many B-Grade horror movies, so we decided to also investigate the “ghosts” present at the Mission Inn over the course of one weekend. The first difficulty to beset our investigation was that we could not find confirmation that the “catacombs” – a rumored series of tunnels under the Mission Inn, stretching to Mount Rubidoux even exist – or existed. The sources online regarding such tunnels seemed to be full of mostly speculation, and no concrete information about how to access such tunnels (or if they really exist). When I arrived at the hotel, I made a number of discreet inquiries of various hotel personnel about the tunnels and was treated to a number of strange looks and denials about such tunnels (or as the internet says “catacombs”) existing. Despite receiving no viable information about whether the catacombs existed or how to access them, we made a valiant attempt to find any secret passages leading to the tunnels/catacombs, without trespassing onto various areas of the hotel we were not allowed into. I’m sad to say that the end result of all of this investigating and stair-climbing to the basement levels of the hotel was absolutely nothing. To this day, I can’t tell you if the catacombs exist – or if they are “haunted”. While I want to believe they exist, and that they are full of ghosts, buried treasure, or are just a cool underground maze, I’m leaning more and more to believing that this is nothing but an urban legend about Riverside and the Mission Inn. If you have contrary (hard) evidence that I’m wrong about this, feel free to let me know, but until then, I’m going to say that while the truth may be out there – the catacombs of the Mission Inn probably aren’t.

In terms of hallway ghosts, @losadventura and I went up just about every hallway in the hotel during the day and during the night. This was in part because the hotel is a really interesting place to explore with lots of interesting architectural styles and in part because we were really trying to see if it was haunted. Again, I’m going to have to be skeptical here, and report that other than some weird looks from hotel guests and visitors, we discovered nothing out of the ordinary, other than the crazy architecture of the building.

Finally, in terms of Frank Miller’s and Alice Miller’s rooms, we also came up with nothing. Frank Miller’s room is locked by the hotel and off limits to guests and visitors and when we looked in the windows at night, we saw nothing scarier than a lot of dust in the rooms. Alice Miller’s room, on the other hand, is actually a guest room and while you can stay in it for a night or multiple nights, we did not. As we were respectful hotel visitors, we did not do anything crazy outside of the room for fear of disturbing the actual guests inside the room. However, by the “Aunt Alice” door, which is rumored to make strange noises, have cold spots, and generally be a portal to a nether dimension, we found – and felt nothing as well.

My final verdict on the Mission Inn is that like the Whaley House, and Queen Mary, it is probably not haunted (again, people with hard proof, feel free to e-mail me), but like those two spots, it’s a great place to visit because it is unique and historic and if you happen to experience something different than me when you are visiting it, that will be an added bonus for you.

Directions: The Mission Inn is located at 3649 Mission Inn Avenue in Riverside, California. Trust me, there is no way you can miss it, as there is nothing in Riverside that looks remotely like it.

Fun Fact: In addition to the parrots at the Inn, historic artifacts, and many presidential visits, I find it interesting that Ann Rice, the author keeps a suite of rooms there on a yearly basis. Who knows, perhaps she draws her inspiration from the (non) existent ghosts.

Mission Inn Catacombs vs Tunnels

Just wanted to clarify the difference between the two. Getting a little bit tired of hearing the 2 terms intermingled.

The Catacombs are under the Mission Inn Hotel. Some tunnels are under the hotel, Annex and elsewhere around the downtown Riverside area. This segment will be on the Catacombs.

My expertise on the subject is limited to the time I worked at the Mission Inn (in house security) from 1982 to 1985 when the Inn was closed for restoration. I also worked there for a short time after the Inn was closed. My source of information is from actually walking or crawling in some of the tunnels and walking through the Catacombs.

A short time after I was hired, the Director of Security challenged all of the security officers to bring him back information on the Inn he did not know about. He told us that he grew up in Riverside as a child and used to play in and around the Mission Inn. We were given a timeline of about a month to find something. A couple of areas we posted off limits to us due to the possibility of asbestos. But the rest of the Inn property was fair game. Some of the stuff we found opened his eyes, and a couple areas received added security in the form of a concrete brick wall or alarm devices.

The Catacombs are located at basement and sub-basement level beneath the southern half of the Inn. Elsewhere on this website you will find pre-1985 floor plans. Looking at the basement floorplans you will see an area labeled as Catacombs. The little squares in the layout are support columns. From that first room you can travel south to the walkway that parallels Orange St. and turn left or right. Turning left takes you through a walkway that contained some of the pipes for the large musical organ in the corner of the music room as well as an access to work on the organ. That walkway ended at a door that took you to the rear of the Glenwood Tavern. Turning right took you through a walkway heading west. At different points the walkway opens to a display area then vacant. Along the way there were stairways heading up to rooms on the southwest corner of the hotel like the Presidential Lounge and apartment number 7. The walkway makes a series of 90 degree turns, and once again you end up in that original room with the columns. A little bit eerie the first time you go down there. The ventilation system down there was natural venting. Air from street level flowed into the walkways. Lighting came in the form of stained glass windows at the top of various spots along the walkway. On the outside of the building, you see pretty stained glass windows in unusual places.

When walking along the sidewalk on the south side of the Inn you will see a planter full of beautiful flowers. There you are standing above the Catacombs. When I worked there, nothing was in the walkways other than the remnants of manikins that once displayed various figures. So called mummies in someone’s eyes.

My understanding is at one time parties were held down there, there was a speakeasy down there during prohibition (source of this info was a prominent figure from UCR), as well a museum displaying various art, artifacts and other items gathered all over the world by Frank Miller, the keeper of the Inn.

Looking at that same basement floorplans you will see a set of parallel lines running from the Catacomb room running west toward Mission Inn Ave. Even makes a slight jog during its length. This is a tunnel, it is a crawl tunnel that lets maintenance personnel gain access to plumbing and various other components to the rooms above.

Either Frank Miller or one of his employees came up with the concept of don’t bury pipes, just run a tunnel next to them in case you have to go back and work on them. Several places in the Inn you would enter a maintenance tunnel with a rack/shelf on one side. Top item on the shelf was electrical, followed by water, steam lines and bottom rung with sewer lines. I was told the vacant spaces on the rack held gas lines at one time.

At one time in the history of Riverside, the Mission Inn had the only steam plant in town. The steam plant was/is located in the Annex. The Annex is a 2 story building with basements directly across 6th Street to the east and south of Main St. so various buildings in downtown Riverside were customers. Probably using the same rack/shelving system in a tunnel to access that customer.

In my time at the Inn, the City of Riverside did not have an documents or records of the tunnels around the Inn or the location of the Catacombs. Officially wise that I know of. Officially wise is an interesting way to put things huh. I remember on 2 separate occasions when a city contractor was working along the streets bordering the inn with construction and earthmoving equipment. One of the times new fiber optic wires were being routed to the General Telephone building down the road. Lines were drawn on Orange St and across the sidewalk above the Catacombs to dig up and lay in new lines.

The city map they had in their possession did not show anything other than sidewalk on the south side of the Inn. It showed utilities and city electrical pipes as well as flood control etc. I immediately tracked down the foreman before they started cutting up the sidewalk. When I explained to the foreman they could not cut where they had marked. He showed me the plans and said something like I was crazy. He knows there are no Catacombs under the Inn.

I contacted my supervisor for permission and then took the foreman down to the walkway parallel to Orange St. and showed him where they were going to dig. The project ended up being delayed a couple of weeks. An engineer from the City of Riverside demanded access to the so called Catacombs. Once he and a few other "Officials" got the tour. Plans were changed and routed along the curb line of Orange St. During that excavation project, we found out some of the curbing along Orange St was carved granite, not concrete. Fun Times.

Is The Mission Inn Haunted ?

In Riverside the most haunted place is of course the famous Mission Inn..

The Mission Inn is an older building, and very spooky in several of the extremely classy and pricey rooms. While guests of the Inn are enjoying the modern amenities afforded them, such as an outdoor Olympic sized pool and first class fitness center, the catacombs that run underneath the building heading in the direction of Mt. Rubidoux are now closed.. These catacombs were rumored to exist and were a great topic of discussion in Jr High, but like most rumor of this nature, no one had ever been in them nor did any one know of anyone who had been.. It wasn't until the late 90's that the rumors of the haunted catacombs of The Mission Inn were finally put to bed.. A construction digger dug into one of the catacombs. That really settled things didn't it. One current employee of the Mission Inn remembers, an older gentleman was once given a room in one of the upper stories of the building, as there were no lower floor rooms available due to the 1939 remodeling.. The next morning, when the gentleman was asked if his accommodations were adequate, he was reported to have said to this worker that all was fine, and he even enjoyed the singing in the next room.. When told he was the only tenant on the floor, the old man nearly passed out.

The Mission Inn is supposedly haunted by the Millers, the first owners of a 12 room cottage where the pool now sits. The existing structure of the hotel was begun in 1900 and completed in approximately 1947. Owned first by C.C. Miller and then sold to his son Frank shortly before his death, in 1900. Frank's sister, Alice, reportedly the one who like to sing while she worked, managed the hotel until her death in the late '40s.

The following lists are all of the rooms in the Mission Inn that are reported to be haunted. Room 215 reports of blue lights the size of a bowling ball has been reported inside room 215.

Alice Miller's ('Aunt Alice') room, 4th floor, south east corner. This two-level room is very active.. Reports of cold spots, touches, apparitions. Strong presence of Alice.

The Bridal Honeymoon Suite across from Alice Miller's room. There have been multiple reports of people being pushed or rather hurried along as they went down the spiral staircase of this two-level room. In 1993, a couple on their honeymoon night checked out of the room just after midnight after reportedly being pushed on the stairwell.

The Catacombs. What's a catacomb with out a little haunting right, right? The end closest to the Mission Inn was an underground museum. It being walled it was believed up till the time that construction worker dug into an old section about a 1/4 mile away, that it did not exist, but as recent excavations and new construction has shown the Catacombs did indeed exist.. All the way to Mt Rubidoux.. Back at the Mission Inn, there was an enormous amount of activity in the area of the foyer during the years immediately following the hotel's re-opening in 1992. The hotel's desk clerk at re-opening resigned after seeing someone in this area late one evening.

Frank Miller's Room in The Mission Inn, 4th floor, north east corner. One of the only rooms not restored during the closure of the Inn from 1985 to 1992. Possibly now a banquet room at the end of Author's Row.. A strong presence of Mr. Miller permeates the room.

It seems that almost all of the Hallways are haunted at the Mission Inn.. There have been numerous sightings of vanishing guests along hallways throughout the hotel, particularly along Author's Row, covered hallway near Alice Miller's room, 2nd and 4th floor hallways, parallel to pool, the service area hallway behind Mission dining room.. The Mission Dining Room also known as the Spanish Dining Room a apparition seen traveling near ceiling from entrance wall, near the patio, to the far back wall. In the Rotunda, there have been some occasional sightings. The area was closed to the public after re-opening but has since opened to retail space around 1997 or 1998.. On the Spanish Patio, visitors have reported feeling cold spots and touchy-feely feelings, especially around the area of the Lincoln Bust, especially since it had been ordered and designed by the late Alice Miller who just happened to die the day it was completed.. I guess she never saw the unavailing and that's why her presence can be felt or seen here?

Discover Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, which is an architecturally accurate replica of a California mission on top of mineral waters.

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2014, dates back to 1927.

While the resort itself specifically dates to the early 1900s, the land upon which it resides has been inhabited by humans for centuries. Some of the earliest tales about the area involve four large Native American settlements. Those communities specifically gathered around the local hot springs for their medicinal and spiritual properties. Then, in the 1840s, the land was acquired by Dr. T.M. Leavenworth, a New York transplant who worked as both a physician and an Episcopalian minister. Calling the area the “Agua Rica Farm,” Leavenworth constructed a massive country estate. Eventually, the doctor sold the farm and its attending facilities to Captain Henry E. Boyes in 1883. Boyes himself was a former officer in the British Royal Navy who had immigrated to California following a stint running an indigo plantation in India. The captain knew of the mineral springs on Leavenworth’s property and saw an opportunity to transform it into a luxurious health retreat. Buying some 75 acres from Leavenworth, Boyes quickly set about developing the resort. He specifically started drilling deep down into the land in order to find the actual source of the water. It took him years to find, though. Digging down to a depth of 70 feet several times, Boyes finally discovered an underground stream with springs as hot as 112 degrees in 1895. The amount of available water was so great, that the captain estimated that it could produce some 100,000 gallons a day for his business.

Elated, Boyes immediately began transforming the Agua Rica Farm into the main facility for his health retreat. Initially a single, modest wooden structure, Boyes was able to create a magnificent two-story hotel when investors A.E. Parramore and Rudolph Lichtenburg joined the project. Their infusion of cash also allowed Boyes to add a small theater, a club house, and several small cabins. Soon enough, a small community emerged around resort that was known locally as the “Boyes Hot Springs.” The resort itself assumed the name of the “Boyes Hot Springs Hotel.” By the end of the 19th century, the resort—as well as the surrounding village—became one of the most heavily visited holiday destinations in Sonoma Valley. Thousands of vacationers had started to arrive in great numbers, with some 4,000 in attendance by 1896—nearly a 400% increase in visitation from when it first opened just a few years prior! The success inspired Boyes to incorporate the Boyes Hot Springs Hotel in 1902. Boyes eventually retired two years later, leaving the business in the hands of a management team. The captain set aside some 15 acres at the resort for his own private use, constructing a small manor called “El Mirador.” Meanwhile, the popularity of the resort continued to grow unabated. The management team added several more facilities, as such, including tent cabins, tub baths, and a swimming pool There was even a bottling plant onsite that remained in operation until the 1960s.

Unfortunately, a fire broke out at the resort in 1923, when some workers ignited a few plants while they removed a couple beehives. Despite the best efforts of the staff to control the flames, the inferno spread throughout the location and down into Boyes Hot Springs below. It utterly devastated the Boyes Hot Springs Hotel and the surrounding countryside. While the neighboring community rebuilt within a matter of months, the resort was left in ruins. Salvation for the destination arrived some three years later, though, once the Sonoma Properties Company purchased the entire site. Fred Partridge and Rudolph Lichtenberg—who had previously funded the Boyes Hot Springs Hotel—specifically managed the project, investing some $600,000 into developing the new resort. The two men hired architect Joseph L. Stewart to design the resort, while Roscoe W. Littlefield provided the labor. They instructed Steward and Littlefield to construct a brilliant facility that would emulate the architecture of the historic structures that dotted the landscape. As such, the new facility displayed the iconic bell towers, beamed ceilings and red-tiled floors of the Spanish missions that once defined California’s colonial past. But the resort also contained a wealth of new, cutting-edge features, too, such as indoor plumbing and electrical lighting. All 100 guestrooms received their own bathrooms, and even had access to telephone services.

The new resort opened as the “Boyes Hot Springs Hotel” with a grand gala in August 1927. Yet, Partridge and Lichtenberg changed its name a mere six months after its debut to the “Sonoma Mission Inn.” The hope was that the destination would capitalize upon the local interest in the historic structures that lined the Sonoma Square in nearby Sonoma. Within a matter of months, the resort quickly resumed its status as one of the most population vacation getaways in all of California. Demand for accommodations grew to such an extent that management charged $7.50 for a single night, while other hotels in the area charged a mere dollar. Yet, this prosperity was not to last, as the Great Depression abruptly flattened interest in booking a reservation at the Sonoma Mission Inn. The economic disaster forced the Sonoma Properties Company to file for bankruptcy, reporting liabilities of $710,500 to assets south of $660,00. Abandoned, most of the resort quickly fell into disrepair again. Only the cottages avoided any sort of neglect, as they became private residences for several prominent families. Emily Long the purchased the site in 1933 and invested millions into renovating the space. What she accomplished was nothing short of spectacular. Long’s stewardship ushered in a brief renaissance for the resort that lasted for the remainder of the decade.

After briefly serving as a “rest center” for soldiers and sailors returning from the Pacific Theater in World War II, Emily Long surrendered control over the Sonoma Mission Inn to hoteliers E.B. Degolia and George T. Thompson. The two men were already accomplished hospitality professionals, having operated the renowned locations like the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, Ranch Rafael, and the Benbow Inn (another member of Historic Hotels of America). Thompson specifically remained invested in the resort’s future, and continued managing it right up until his death in 1963. Under is watch, the Sonoma Mission Inn became the select place for dignitaries, athletes, and movie stars as they passed through the Sonoma Valley. Several professional sports teams—including the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers, and the Detroit Lions—even booked blocks of guestrooms whenever they made their way over to the Bay Area. Eventually, Thompson’s wife Vee sold the location to property mogul Richard Bristol. He, in turn, then sold it to Edward J. Safdie in 1980. Safdie then initiated a multimillion-dollar renovation that saw the creation of such iconic facilities like the current European-style spa. Today, this magnificent destination is part of Fairmont Hotels and Resorts and operates as the “Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa.” Few places in the Sonoma Valley are better for a wonderfully historic vacation than this magnificent resort.

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa resides within the neighborhood of Boyes Hot Springs, a district of Sonoma that was once its own independent settlement. Sonoma itself is one of California’s most historic communities, having been established at the site of the Mission San Francisco Solano in 1835. It was specifically founded as a military outpost by Mexican military officer Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, who had been sent north to investigate Russian explorations to the region. Mission San Francisco Solano itself dated back a decade prior, created as the last—and most northern—of the 21 Franciscan missions present in California. Father Jose Altimira presided over the site, governing it until its closure by the Mexican government in 1833. Eventually, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo transformed the mission into a fortress, which he would use as a deterrent against any further foreign encroachments into the Bay Area. More importantly, Vallejo’s new base would provide much needed military support for the El Presidio Real de San Francisco, which was the main Mexican military installation in central California. The central component of the base was the Sonoma Barracks, which served as the headquarters for the entire garrison. Soon enough, a small village soon emerged around the new fort, with the Sonoma Plaza serving as its center. Vallejo eventually wound up named the new town, “Pueblo de Sonoma.” Historians today believe Vallejo discovered the name “Sonoma” from a local tribe of Native Americans, perhaps a band of the Wintun.

Pueblo de Sonoma continued to support the El Presidio Real de San Francisco right up until 1846, when a part of American settlers occupied the Sonoma Plaza. Led by Captain John Charles Frémont, the group seized the fort and held its garrison captive. They declared the town the capital of their new country—the Republic of California—and raised the “Bear Flag” high above the base. (Interestingly, the flag was originally designed by William Todd, who was the nephew of future First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.) The republic did not last long, though, as they rebels soon surrendered control over their outpost to the United States, which had invaded the nearby port city of Monterey as part of the greater events related to the Mexican-American War. As such, the enclave became a territory ruled by the United States, although it lost its status as a center for regional governance. It did continue to house soldiers inside the Sonoma Barracks, though, including a company of U.S. Marines and Army dragoons. Major General Persifor Smith also used the barracks as the main administrative office for the newly created Pacific Division—a distinction that it kept for the next six years. But Sonoma eventually lost its position as a military installation in the early 1850s, when the nearby town of Benicia opened its own facilities.

A strong civilian economy emerged as Sonoma transited away from being a military base. Miners were still traveling to the region in the wake of the California Gold Rush, with many flocking to Sonoma to provide for their every need. Some prospectors even believed that the area surrounding the town was ripe for gold mining, which led to rampant land speculation. As such, Sonoma quickly underwent a population boom that saw its size grow exponentially. It also began to cultivate a local tourism industry that produced dozens of hotels across town. Interest in visiting Sonoma remained, even after the gold mining craze had long died out. It was within this environment that Captain Henry E. Boyes was able to build his celebrated health resort. Around the same time, a Hungarian count named Agoston Haraszthy arrived in Sonoma. Purchasing hundreds of acres to the east of the town, he constructed a magnificent estate called “Buena Vista.” Haraszthy then proceeded to plant thousands of European grape vines throughout the property, creating the first modern vineyard in the area. Buena Vista built the foundation for the current California wine industry and transformed the entire Sonoma Valley into America’s premier wine growing region. Today, Sonoma is one of the most visited places in central California. It is home to the renowned Sonoma International Film Festival as well as few of the finest wineries in the United States. Sonoma also contains several reputed historic sites, including the Sonoma Plaza, which the U.S. Department of the Interior has recognized as a National Historic Landmark.

When architect Joseph L. Stewart began constructing the Boyes Hot Springs Hotel, he chose Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture as the source for his inspiration. Also known as “Spanish Eclectic,” this architectural form is a representation of themes typically seen in early Spanish colonial settlements. Original Spanish colonial architecture borrowed its design principles from Moorish, Renaissance, and Byzantine forms, which made it incredibly decorative and ornate. The general layout of those structures called for a central courtyard, as well as thick stucco walls that could endure Latin America’s diverse climate. Among the most recognizable features within those colonial buildings involved heavy carved doors, spiraled columns, and gabled red-tile roofs. Architect Bertram Goodhue was the first to widely popularize Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States, spawning a movement to incorporate the style more broadly in American culture at the beginning of the 20th century. Goodhue received a platform for his designs at the Panama-California Exposition on 1915, in which Spanish Colonial architecture was exposed to a national audience for the first time. His push to preserve the form led to a revivalist movement that saw widespread use of Spanish Colonial architecture throughout the country, specifically in California and Florida. Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture reached its zenith during the early 1930s, although a few American businesspeople—including Patrick J. Kennedy—continued to embrace the form well into the late 20th century.

Five things you may not know about Riverside’s Mission Inn

Mission Inn Museum docent Sally Beaty stands in front of Tiffany stained glass windows in the inn's St. Francis of Assisi chapel on Wednesday, Aug. 31.

The Mission Inn's St. Francis of Assisi chapel features Tiffany stained glass windows and an ornate Mexican altarpiece.

The Mission Inn's St. Francis of Assisi chapel was designed to showcase Tiffany stained glass windows and a Mexican altar screen.

A Buddha statue from Japan sits in the Ho-O-Kan room at Riverside's Mission Inn.

The altarpiece in the chapel at the Mission Inn was imported from Mexico by inn builder Frank Miller.

The life-size figures under the clock at the Mission Inn were completed in 1953.

The rotating life-size figures under the Anton clock at the Mission Inn were added by Frank Miller's daughter, Allis Miller Hutchings.

The public rarely sees the rooftop Alhambra Court at Riverside's Mission Inn, which was used for roller skating and tennis in the 1920s.

A millstone from one the Riverside area's first grist mills is embedded in the sidewalk outside the Mission Inn.

The Mission Inn, a Riverside icon known for its eclectic history and charm, has starred in articles, movies and books, including the opening scene of a 2009 Anne Rice novel.

Along with architectural styles and furnishings from around the world, the inn contains dozens of stories &ndash some of them mysterious even to those who know the place best.

Mission Inn Museum docents such as Sally Beaty, who leads tours, still get questions to which they don&rsquot have answers and stumble across previously unknown facts about Frank Miller and the historic hotel he built.

&ldquoThat&rsquos part of the fun because we learn new things all the time,&rdquo said Beaty, who has been a docent since 2011.

Inn guests are often told that one of the hotel&rsquos early resident macaws bit the finger of a visiting Albert Einstein. And during a 1909 stay, President William Howard Taft was offended by Miller&rsquos gesture of providing a sturdier, custom-made chair that could handle the bulky commander-in-chief.

But not everyone has heard that Miller planned hotel additions that were never built, including a replica of Sevilla, Spain&rsquos Giralda bell tower, at the corner of Orange Street and Mission Inn Avenue.

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The Mission Inn Foundation, which keeps archives and runs the museum, has a committee dedicated to researching hotel history. Some of its discoveries are shared with the public through tours, like one beginning in October that will focuson the inn&rsquos art collection.

Some stories connected to the inn may never be known.

Riverside’s most famous hotel is the subject of plenty of stories, but if you think you’ve heard them all, think again.


Item:Buddha statue

Year: Created in the 1800s. Bought for the Inn in 1925.

Description: A 73-inch-high figure covered in black-and-red lacquer and gold leaf.

Back story: The statue can be seen in the 1975 movie “The Wild Party,” starring James Coco and Raquel Welch and filmed in Riverside. A long-told story claims the buddha survived an earthquake that destroyed the Japanese temple in which it resided, but local historians say there’s no evidence of that.


Item: Anton clock with characters.

Year: The original clock was made in 1709 in Nuremberg, Germany. The figures that appear underneath were added in 1953.

Description: A replica of the clock face overlooks the Inn’s Spanish wing. A set of four characters below &ndash explorer Juan Bautista de Anza, Father Junipero Serra, St. Francis of Assisi, and a California Indian accompanied by a bear &ndash were designed to rotate so a different one shows every 15 minutes.

Back story: Miller’s daughter, Allis Miller Hutchings, had the idea to add the rotating characters. Worried that the addition wouldn’t be completed before she died, hotel employees dressed up as the figures to demonstrate the finished clock for their mistress.


Item: Millstone from Rubidoux grist mill.

Description: The old grinding stone is one of two embedded in brickwork along the inn’s Orange Street side.

Back story: Miller collected many pieces of decor and artifacts for the Inn on his world travels, but he also included objects from closer to home. The millstones were reportedly from the area’s first grist mill, established by Louis Robidoux in the mid-1800s.


Item: St. Francis of Assisi chapel.

Year: Built about 1931.

Description: The chapel includes Tiffany stained glass windows and an altar screen of carved cedar covered in gold.

Back story: Because of Miller’s reputation as a collector, he heard about the altarpiece, created in the 1700s by miners in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. Miller bought it, sight unseen, for $5,000 and it arrived in Riverside in pieces with no instructions to reassemble it.


Item: Alhambra Court and Carmel Dome

Year: The dome was completed in 1911. The court and adjacent suites were built in 1921.

Description: A rooftop terrace and suite topped with a terra cotta dome

Backstory: Cutouts in the dome provide long-distance views, including one of Mount Rubidoux that let hotel staff know guests were coming back from Easter sunrise service and would want brunch. The courtyard was used for tennis and roller skating in the 1920s.

After Miller&rsquos grandchildren sold the hotel in 1956, the new owner modernized the place and auctioned off hundreds of pieces of art and artifacts, Beaty said.

A few paintings were later found by the nonprofit Friends of the Mission Inn, who bought them back for display in the hotel. Other items may never be found. And some artifacts that remain in the hotel have mysterious origins.

&ldquoFrank Miller was a wonderful collector, but he kept very poor notes,&rdquo Beaty said.

Mission Inn History

The vast history of the Mission Inn dated back to at least a century down the line when it began as a tiny boarding house with twelve rooms. It also revolves around the family of C. C. Miller, a civil engineer that immigrated and settled in Riverside in 1874 with the sole intention of constructing a water system. In 1880, C.C. Miller’s son, Frank Miller, purchased the land and rapidly expanded it with the help of Arthur Benton, a prominent architect, and Henry Huntington, a railroad baron. The official opening of today’s Mission Inn first wing by Miller was in 1903. The growth of the building was gradual, with each new side illustrating Miller’s adventures throughout Asia and Europe as well as the architectural innovations.

Hosting Special Guests

Numerous dignitaries and celebrities have been known to frequent the Mission Inn over the years. It has a Presidential Lounge that pays homage to ten United States Presidents hosted. The current bar commemorates the visit of President Theodore Roosevelt in the year 1903 and the room part once hosted the wedding of Richard Nixon and Patricia. There are different signature cocktails used by guests to toast to the famous guests to the Lounge, with examples including the Lemon Drop for Herbart Hoover and JFK’S Cosmopolitan.

Throughout Riverside’s history, Mr. Miller was known to accommodate famous guests who frequented the Inn. At the center of the lobby, there was a notable extraordinary and a bit large chair uniquely designed for President Taft. President Taft weighed approximately 350 pounds and stood six feet five inches tall, which made him struggle with usual amenities. At some point, rumor had it that he got stuck in a bathtub at the White House.

The Bell Collection Owned by Miller Family

Frank Miller toured throughout Asia and Europe, and always returned with numerous collections from his many trips. Frank was susceptible to giving in to great bargains including paintings, a bell, antique furniture or statuary. The artifact compilation of this family at one time exceeded 800, with the current count being 400 items distributed at the hotel and spa of Mission Inn. The Mexican restaurant’s Cantina section nicely holds the temple bell of Nanking. It happens to be among the very first artifacts that originated from China following the 1912’s Boxer Rebellion.

A.D. 1247, Christendom’s oldest dated bell, is yet another treasured Miller family piece. This prized collection is currently displayed right outside the famous restaurant. Mr. Miller bought it during one of his trips to England as well as two additional ones for approximately 25 bucks each. A shopkeeper purchased the next two bells while the former one remained in the Inn.

In discussing the history of the Mission Inn, it is essential to take note of its priceless treasures including the wedding chapels surrounding a Spanish-inspired courtyard called the Atrio. The Atrio’s key features include smooth flagstones as well as a bronze fountain that is Italian-inspired. Timeless wedding celebrations took place at the spot in question. The Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi, completed in 1931 has decorations made from priceless treasures derived from different regions around the world. Precious glass panels acquired from Louis Comfort, superbly accent the chapel’s grand walls.

Hard Times following Change of Inn’s Ownership

The Mission Inn had four wings by 1931 in addition to a labyrinth of towers, gardens, winding stairways, and arches that surrounded the whole city block. The interior part incorporated artifacts and arts that Miller purchased from different regions of the nation and across the globe. Even after Miller died in 1935, his family never ceased to operate the Inn until 1956 when a San Francisco-based hotel-man, Benjamin Swig, purchased it. Swig sold close to a thousand artifacts and artworks of the hotel in a move to revive the failing Inn whose business was under the threat of competitors such as a near Palm Springs. Despite the effort, the popularity of the Inn still dwindled and struggled through multiple ownership and recurrent financial crises.

Reviving the Hotel

In 1969, citizens became concerned about the hotel’s situations and formed a group dubbed “Friends of Mission Inn”. This organization had volunteering members whose primary objective was the promotion of the Inn’s business and protecting its historic collections. Riverside Redevelopment Agency bought the Inn in 1976 as its financial woes worsened. Following the efforts of government officials and local advocates, Mission Inn became the Nation’s Historic Landmark in 1977. This move made the Mission Inn one of the sites holding a historical importance. The city revived the hotel and kept it thriving for almost nine years before selling it to a private development firm based in Wisconsin. In June 1985, the company closed the Inn to begin a 50 million dollar renovation project of seven years.

In December 1988 as the restorations were nearly coming to an end, the hotel once again became bankrupt. The situation remained the same for three years with no potential buyer. Luckily in 1992, Duane Roberts, a local Riverside entrepreneur bought the Inn and reopened it successfully for business. The hotel gradually regained its place as a notable Southern California’s premier destination, and its legacy will go on for several years to come.

Mission Inn as a Current Living Museum

Currently, there are daily tours offered by the Mission Inn Museum and while here you acquaint yourself with the history of this Riverside-based legendary hotel. The tour routes and times aren’t fixed but rather subject to availability. The charges are 13 dollars per head and complimentary for children under the age of 12. Each walking tour will last you approximately 75 minutes, with the opening hours being 9.30 in the morning to 4.00 at the evening, excluding the holidays.

Based on this information concerning the history of the Mission Inn, it is clear that it is America’s unique hotel. It also served as a home, mission, a boardinghouse, an art gallery, a museum, a monastery, and a shrine of an aviator. It integrates the best features of all the mentioned things. When in California, you should make a point of visiting this famous historical site located in the heart of Riverside. If you haven’t been here, you clearly need to experience the incredible history and get a firsthand view of the famous collection of the Miller family. It is clearly, a must-visit spot that will give you a memorable and fantastic time of your life.

Cape May's Tourism Roots

Then in the mid-1700’s, the island began to emerge as a resort for visitors from Philadelphia. Visitors first traveled here by horse-drawn wagons and stagecoaches. As transportation options evolved, they came by steamship and railroad. By the 1830’s, Cape Island began to attract the elite of New York, Baltimore, and Washington in addition to Philadelphia. Hotels, music pavilions, and a grand boardwalk emerged.

And then in 1878, a devastating fire destroyed 35 acres of downtown and burned down many of the grand hotels and private cottages that had been built to accommodate wealthy travelers. After this historic fire, Cape May decided to rebuild itself in the architectural style of the day, Victorian.

Following WWI and WWII, the opening of the Garden State Parkway in 1954 gave Cape May a tourism boost. It ended the city’s former isolation as automobile travel to the NJ shore increased dramatically.

Historic Postcard Tour of the Mission Inn

This antique post card series provides a unique glimpse back to the heyday of the Glenwood Mission Inn. Descriptions are original text from the back of each post card. (From the inlandempire.us publications archive.)

1) Spanish Patio, Glenwood Mission Inn, Riverside, CA
The Spanish Patio, with its tables for dining out-of-doors, is an especially attractive feature of the Inn. The fountain of Juan B. de Anza is decorated with Spanish tiles and curious gargoyles.

This antique post card series provides a unique glimpse back to the heyday of the Glenwood Mission Inn. Descriptions are original text from the back of each post card. (From the inlandempire.us publications archive.)

2) Spanish Patio, Glenwood Mission Inn, Riverside, CA
The Spanish Patio, with its tables for dining out-of-doors, is an especially attractive feature of the Inn. The fountain of Juan B. de Anza is decorated with Spanish tiles and curious gargoyles.

3) Glenwood Mission Inn, Riverside, CA
The Alhambra Galleries of the Spanish Patio are adorned with carved brackets from the famous Alhambra at Granada. The slender arches, the iron railings, and the red tile pavements lend a very Andalusian atmosphere.

4) St. Catherine’s Well, Glenwood Mission Inn, Riverside, CA
St. Catherine’s Well, made of rough irregular rocks, is a picturesque feature of the court.

5) Glenwood Mission Inn, Riverside, CA
The Spanish Art Gallery is typical of medieval halls of Spanish castles, where ancestral paintings were hung. Here are displayed interesting canvasses and rare tapestries from Spanish and Mexico. The unusual ceiling of golden cloth is especially Castilian.

6) Glenwood Mission Inn, Riverside, CA
The arch, as in the Campanario, the Arcade, and other portions of the Inn, is typical of the mission architecture of the early Spanish days.

7) Glenwood Mission Inn, Riverside, CA
The Carmel Door is like the main portal of the Carmel Mission, the most beloved by Fr. Junipero Serra, its founder.

8) Glenwood Mission Inn, Riverside, CA
The historical parent Navel Orange Tree was sent to Riverside in 1874 from The Agricultural Department at Washington. From this tree and one other are descended all navel orange trees in existence. The huge Chinese Bell is from Nanking, and is one of the Inn’s most famous items.

9) Santa Cecelia Windows, Glenwood Mission Inn, Riverside, CA
The stained glass windows in the Cloister Music Room are noteworthy. Santa Cecelia seated at the organ typifies the sanctity of music. Many characteristic features of the Inn appear in the design.

10) Cloister Art Shop, Glenwood Mission Inn, Riverside, CA
In the Cloister Art Shop are to be found curious and interesting articles from all over the world. The old bells, crosses, Spanish chests, and rare pieces of furniture, brass and copper pieces are especially noteworthy.

Mission Inn - History

"Come as Strangers - Leave as Friends"

The Inn was built in 1869 as a 31 room hotel and has famous guest on the registers including Babe Ruth and Joe Louis. Check out our history page for more of the Inn's history and pictures.

​Old Mission Inn is Traverse City's and Michigan's Oldest Continually Operating Historic Hotel / Bed and Breakfast on the Old Mission Peninsula

We offer a wide variety of rooms that can accommodate individual needs. All our rooms have private baths and face the East Grand Traverse Bay in a very scenic and tranquil setting. Come and enjoy all that the Old Mission Peninsula has to offer.

" Come as Strangers - Leave as Friends"

For 2 years in a row the Old Mission Inn has earned the coveted Trip Advisor's "Certificate of Excellence" winner for 2014 and 2015.

The Old Mission Inn was built in 1869. Located on the tip of the historic Old Mission Peninsula and is Traverse City and Northern Michigan's oldest continually operating historic hotel and operating like a bed and breakfast. Come enjoy the quiet, scenic and relaxing atmosphere.

Nearby visit local wineries, restaurants, beaches and historic landmarks. The Old Mission Peninsula is Traverse City's most beautiful scenic drives with breathtaking views of the Grand Traverse Bay.

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