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Clock overlooking the Spanish Wing.
Skybridge between buildings
The Mission Inn is a historic landmark hotel in downtown Riverside, Californiamarker. Although a composite of many architectural styles, it is generally considered the largest Mission Revival Style building in the United Statesmarker. It is rumored to be haunted because of alleged paranormal activity.


The property began as a two-story, 12-room adobe boarding house called the "Glenwood Cottage" built by civil engineer Christopher Columbus Miller in 1876. In 1902, Miller's son Frank changed the name to the "Mission Inn" and started building obsessively, in a wild variety of shapes, until he died in 1935.

Miller's vision for the structure was drawn from random historical styles. With one section over another, addition upon addition, the result is an enormously complicated and intricately built structure, comparable to the Winchester House. It contains narrow passageways, exterior arcades, a medieval-style clock, a five-story rotunda, innumerable patios and windows, castle towers, minarets, a Cloister Wing (with Catacombs), flying buttresses, Mediterranean domes and a pedestrian skybridge among many other features.

Part of the complexity is an unexpected change of scale as Miller tailored certain portions of the property for his height challenged sister. Another reason for the complexity is the clash of styles, such as Moroccan, Mediterranean, Chinese, Turkish, Babylonian, Spanish, Oriental, Italian Renaissance, and Gothic-Hawaiian.

During the 30 year construction period Miller traveled the world, collecting treasures to bring back to the hotel for display. The various museum-quality artifacts on the property has an estimated value of well over $5 million.

The St. Francis Chapel houses four large, stained-glass windows and two original mosaics by Louis Comfort Tiffany. 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 1274 described as the "oldest bell in Christendom."

In 1932, Frank Miller opened the St. Francis Atrio containing the "Famous Fliers’ Wall," which was used to recognize notable aviators. On March 20, 1942, WWI 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 ten-inch wide 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 1952 and 1953 respectively. The Inn then went through a series of ownership changes and some of its older rooms were converted to apartments.

The hotel was later acquired by the Carley Capital Group and was closed for renovations in 1985 at a cost of $55 million. Newly discovered structural problems cost more than expected and caused the company to fall behind on loan payments to a New York bank. In December 1992, the Inn was sold to Duane R. Roberts, a Riverside businessman and lover of the Inn. It was reopened to the public shortly thereafter.


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.


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; Nancy and Ronald Reagan honeymooned there. Ten US Presidents have visited the Inn: Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

The list of social leaders making stops to the Mission Inn includes Susan B. Anthony, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Collis and 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. Comedians and musical entertainers such as Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Glen Campbell, Merle Haggard and Tears for Fears have stopped by.

In 1909 Carrie Jacobs-Bond wrote the lyrics for her famous song "A Perfect Day" while staying in the Mission Inn. For many years the Mission Inn's carillon played "A Perfect Day" as the last tune each evening.

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 also paid a visit in the past few years.

Festival of Lights

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, which occupies an entire city block, is complete with 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.


The Inn offers many unique culinary experiences; Bella Trattoria is a small Italian Bistro located on the adjacent Main Street pedestrian walking mall. It serves Southern Italian Cuisine including brick oven baked pizzas, pasta and pressed Panini sandwiches. Duane’s Prime Steaks and Seafood Restaurant is the Inland Empire’s only AAA Four Diamond awarded restaurant. Serving award-winning dishes and fine-wine. Las Campanas Mexican Cuisine & Cantina incorporates outdoor dining in a landscaped garden with fountains and fire pits.The Mission Inn Restaurant features International Fare while dining inside the restaurant or on the Spanish Patio, which offers lovely views of the hotel above. On Sudays this restaurant serves an exceptional buffet-style Champagne Brunch. The Presidential Lounge is the hotel’s premier cocktail lounge offering Live Jazz and portraits of each of the visiting Presidents.

Mission Inn Museum

The Mission Inn Museum promotes the cultural heritage of the Mission Inn. Visitors are led on guided tours that highlight the inn's architecture, stained glass, furniture, art, textiles and other cultural resources. Permanent exhibits feature the history of the inn and its founders, and the museum offers changing exhibits and educational programs.


  2. The place of composition is indicated in a line inserted above the title on p. 3 of the high voice (soprano) edition published in 1938 by the Boston Music Company; this version is in the key of C. Jacobs-Bond added the tune for "A Perfect Day" during a visit to the Mojave Desert 3 months after her visit to the Mission Inn (Rick Reublein on "America's first great woman popular song composer" site).
  3. Mission Inn Museum site for Carrie Jacobs-Bond.
  4. City of Riverside Historic Districts and Buildings

Further Reading

  • Klotz, Esther. "The Mission Inn; Its History and Artifiacts". Rubidoux Printing, Riverside, California. 1981.
  • Hall, Joan H. "Through the Doors of the Mission Inn". Highgrove Press, Riverside, California. 1996. ISBN: 0-9631618-2-2.
  • Hall, Joan H. "Through the Doors of the Mission Inn; Volume Two". Highgrove Press, Riverside, California. 2000. ISBN: 0-9631618-3-0.

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