Explore over a century of history at
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa
A National Historic Landmark
From its modest beginnings as a 12-room adobe boarding house to its current stature as one of the finest hotels in the United States providing a total of 238 rooms and suites, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa has been the cornerstone of Downtown Riverside since 1876.
The Mission Inn’s rise to greatness began in the late 1800’s, when wealthy easterners and Europeans flocked to Riverside in search of both a warmer winter climate and to invest in the area’s profitable citrus industry.
By the 1890’s, Riverside was the richest city per capita in the United States. The consistent influx of tourists to Riverside made Frank Miller, the Master of the Inn, recognize the dire need for a grand resort hotel.
And so, the evolution of The Mission Inn began.
Frank Miller opened the first wing of his new hotel in 1903. The Mission Wing was built in Mission-Revival style architecture and incorporated different structural elements of the 21 California Missions. Mr. Miller went onto add three more wings to his hotel: the Cloister, the Spanish, and finally completed it with the Rotunda wing in 1931.
Over the years, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa has hosted numerous celebrities and dignitaries. In fact,The Presidential Lounge pays homage to the 10 U.S. Presidents who have passed through its doors.
The current bar stands where President Theodore Roosevelt once slept during his visit to the hotel in 1903, while the lounge area once hosted Richard Nixon’s wedding to his wife Patricia. Guests can make a toast to the Lounge’s historic guests with a variety of signature cocktails including the JFK Cosmopolitan and the Herbert Hoover Lemon Drop.
Mr. Miller was notoriously accommodating to the famous guests who visited the Inn throughout the history of Riverside. In the middle of the lobby, visitors will note a rather unique — and quite large — chair, made especially for President Taft. Weighing roughly 350 lbs. and standing six-foot-five, President Taft often struggled with standard amenities, including rumors that he had gotten stuck in the White House bathtub.
Always eager to accommodate, Mr. Miller had a special chair commissioned for this very prestigious and rotund guest for the banquet that was to be held in his honor. A prime example of arts and craft style furniture, the Taft chair has been a coveted photo location for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Robert Redford, as well as countless other celebrities, couples and schoolchildren.
The Miller Family Bell Collection
Frank Miller traveled extensively throughout Europe and Asia on family vacations. He would always return with more “stuff” than he went with.
Whether it was antique furniture, paintings, statuary, or a bell, Frank could never resist a great bargain.
The Miller family bell collection once exceeded 800 and today, includes 400 bells that can be found throughout the exquisite grounds of The Mission Inn. The Nanking temple bell nicely adorns the Cantina section of the hotel’s Mexican restaurant, Las Campanas.
This bell was one of the first items to leave China after the Boxer Rebellion in 1912 and was once coveted by Louis Comfort Tiffany who wrote a blank check in an attempt to purchase this bell, in which Mr. Miller ultimately declined.
Another prized bell in the Miller family collection, the oldest dated bell in Christendom, A.D. 1247, is now being showcased right outside the Mission Inn Restaurant in 54˚ at Duane’s. On a trip to England, Mr. Miller purchased this bell and two others for around twenty-five dollars. When Mr. Miller returned to pick up the bells that he’d purchased, the shopkeeper only brought out two.
The shopkeeper realized his mistake and told Frank that the third bell was no longer for sale. Frank objected, produced a written receipt of purchase and proudly returned to the Mission Inn with the oldest dated bell in the world.
Located a floor above the lobby, the hotel’s wedding chapels grace the Spanish-colonial inspired courtyard known as the Atrio.
With its smooth travertine flagstones and Italian-inspired bronze Bacchus fountain, the Atrio serves as a majestic backdrop for timeless wedding celebrations.
Part of the Rotunda wing, completed in 1931, the St. Francis of Assisi Chapel is embellished with priceless treasures from around the world. Precious Tiffany stained glass panels, which Mr. Miller acquired directly from Louis Comfort Tiffany, magnificently accent the grand walls of the chapel.
The 18-karat-gold leafed Rayas Altarpiece dates back to the mid-eighteenth century and was commissioned for a family home in Guanajuato, Mexico. Gleaming with gold and meticulously gilded, this exquisite altar makes every wedding held here truly magical.
Frank Miller successfully ran The Mission Inn Hotel from its early stages as an adobe boarding house to a renowned destination hotel until his death in 1935. His ingenuity and keen hospitality expertise made the Mission Inn an institution in Riverside history and a destination for everyone.
After the Miller family sold the hotel in 1956, it changed hands numerous times and was on the brink of being demolished. The legacy of private family ownership was renewed by current owner Duane R. Roberts, Chairman, President & CEO of the Historic Mission Inn Corporation, headquartered in Newport Beach, CA.
After being closed for more than seven years while undergoing a $55 million extensive renovation, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa reopened in 1992, returning to its place as one of the premier destinations in Southern California and ensuring its legacy will continue on for many years to come.
“It is the most unique hotel in America. It’s a monastery, a museum, a fine hotel, a home, a boardinghouse, a mission, an art gallery and an aviator’s shrine. It combines the best features of all of the above. If you are ever in any part of California, don’t miss the famous Mission Inn of Riverside.”
“It has been left to Frank Miller, a genuine Californian, to dream of the hotel that ought to be, to turn your ideas into plaster and stone and to give us a mountain-belted Riverside the hotel which a Californian can recognize as his own.”
David Starr Jordan-First President of Stanford University
For a more extensive history of the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, please visit Mission Inn Museum or scheduled a docent-led tour by calling (951) 788-9556.