History and Beauty Around Every Corner
From its modest beginnings as a two-story adobe guest house in 1876 to its current position as an icon of breathtaking architecture, timeless beauty and old world charm, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa is a place where history, grandeur, and inspiration are found around every corner.
From iconic domes and towers overlooking the inland California landscape to the serenity of secluded pools and villas, discover the luxurious features that make The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa a truly one-of-a-kind destination:
History of the Hotel
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 on to 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 pounds and standing 6 feet 5 inches tall, 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 craftstyle furniture, the Taft chair has been a coveted photo location for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and 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, where he would always return with more “stuff” than he went with on his trips.
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 Hotel & Spa. 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, which Mr. Miller ultimately declined.
Another prized bell in the Miller family collection is the oldest dated bell in Christendom, A.D. 1247, which 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 acchus 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.
Mission Inn Riverside
The 18-karat gold leaf 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 Hotel & Spa 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 schedule a docent-led tour by calling (951) 788-9556.
The history of The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa has a long-standing relationship with U.S. Presidents. It all began back in 1903 when Theodore Roosevelt stayed at the Inn soon after the Mission Wing was built. He also took part in the ceremonial replanting of one of Riverside’s two parent navel orange trees, now found in the Spanish Patio of the Mission Inn Restaurant.
Pat and Richard Nixon held their wedding next to the warmth of the beautiful fireplace in what is now the Presidential Lounge, while Nancy and Ronald Reagan chose The Mission Inn as their honeymoon destination.
Seven other US Presidents and Vice Presidents have visited the Inn including:
Presidents Benjamin Harrison, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft even visited The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa while in office. Many other world leaders and famous names have paid visits to the Inn over the years as well.
For more than 125 years, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa has been the center of Riverside, host to a number of seasonal and holiday functions as well as occasional political functions and other major social gatherings.
World leaders and Hollywood stars – from Ronald and Nancy Reagan to Richard and Pat Nixon and screen legend Bette Davis – have married or honeymooned at The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa.
US Presidents have visited the Inn over the years including:
Social leaders who have walked through the doors of The Mission Inn include:
The list of Entertainers, Actors, Comedians and Musical Entertainers who have toured the Inn is extensive:
The Inn continues to be a getaway for notable individuals to this day. Arnold Schwarzenegger stayed here during his tenure as Governor of California while the Osbournes, Ozzy and Sharon, have also paid a visit in the past few years.
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa also has its place among literature, song, movies and television. 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.
American author Anne Rice, whose famous works include Interview with a Vampire, so enjoyed the Inn on her many visits that she incorporated it into her 2009 best-seller Angel Time. The book, much of which was written in the exquisite Amistad Suite, is the first in Rice's Songs of the Seraphim series, which tells the story of Toby O'Dare, an assassin with a tragic past, who uses The Mission Inn as his refuge.
Serving as a place of inspiration for many famous authors over the past century, the hotel dedicated a row of guest rooms, known as Author’s Row, as a tribute to the many works that were penned in those very rooms.
The Inn's unique architecture and ambiance have attracted many filmmakers over the years.
A few of the many film shoots at the Inn include:
- “Idiot's Delight” with Clark Gable (1938)
- “Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here” with Robert Redford (1969)
- “Vibes” starring Jeff Goldblum (1988)
- Oliver Stone’s “Nixon”, starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, Joan Allen and Ed Harris (1995)
- “The Man in the Iron Mask” with Edward Albert & Timothy Bottoms (1998)
Famous Fliers’ Wall
Frank Miller, the original owner and developer of the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside, California, built the exquisite St. Francis of Assisi Chapel to hold the extraordinary gold-leafed Rayas Altar and Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows.
A copper plaque to the left of the doors notes that the chapel and atrio were dedicated as the International Shrine of Aviators on December 15,1932.
The words "Francis of Assisi Lover of Birds and Birdmen Patron Saint" festoon a double cross there. Mr. Miller’s chapel thus became a symbol of hope and protection for all who take to the air.
The plaque on the Famous Fliers' Wall is surrounded by 154 pairs of stunning, 10-inch copper wings, each dedicated to an individual or a group of fliers.
The MIA – POWs (whose copper wings are wrapped in barbed wire), Orville Wright, the WASPs (Women's Army Service Pilots) and Medal of Honor Aviators are all among those honored.
Michael Coats, former astronaut and current director of NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, mounted his wings on November 15th, 2007. On October 15th, 2009 Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin Jr., the second man on the moon, mounted his wings on the Mission Inn’s Famous Fliers’ Wall, becoming the 154th aviator.
Not just a hotel, but a living museum
The Mission Inn Foundation and Museum offers daily tours to acquaint you with the rich history of our legendary hotel in Riverside, California.
Tour times and routes are subject to availability. Tours are $13 per person and children under 12 years old are complimentary. Each walking tour lasts approximately 75 minutes.
If you would like information on tour times or to make a tour reservation, please contact The Mission Inn Museum at (951) 788-9556.
The Mission Inn Museum is open daily 9:30 AM - 4:00 PM, excluding holidays.