History Plus Luxury: The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa
“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.”
– Will Rogers (1879-1935)
Believed by historians to be the largest Mission Revival building in America, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa was just a simple, two-story adobe guesthouse when creator Christopher Columbus Miller first opened the doors of his establishment in 1876, calling it the “Glenwood Hotel.” Two decades later, Miller’s son Frank rechristened the family business as “The Mission Inn” (after taking over management from his father), and began a three-decade transformation of the property, adding castle and clock towers, a chapel with original Tiffany mosaics and a Mexican-Baroque altar, a cloister with catacombs, flying buttresses, a Garden of Bells, an exhibit which pays homage to aviators, Mediterranean domes, and minarets.
Although its more labyrinthine areas have been compared to the corridors of San Jose’s historic Winchester Mystery House, the blend of architectural styles – from Spanish Gothic to Moorish and Renaissance Revival – creates an overriding sense of old world charm.
Today, the sprawling establishment takes up a full block of the Inland Southern California community of Riverside, and is home to an art collection reportedly worth at least $5 million and described by respected curators as “museum quality.” Twentieth century humorist Will Rogers called it “the most unique hotel in America.”
The special event choice for many well-known Republican and Democratic Party leaders, it has also historically been one of the best sites for “star gazing.” Richard and Pat Nixon were married at the Inn in 1940, as was film great Bette Davis in 1945; Ronald and Nancy Reagan honeymooned there in 1952. John F. Kennedy was a visitor, as were Susan B. Anthony, members of the Barrymore acting clan, Jack Benny, Sarah Bernhardt, Andrew Carnegie, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, W. C. Fields, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, William Randolph Hearst, Bob Hope, Harry Houdini, Helen Keller, John Muir, Mary Pickford, Joseph Pulitzer, author Anne Rice, John D. Rockefeller, Barbra Streisand, and Spencer Tracy.
Having gone through a series of ownership changes over the years and a $55 million renovation, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa reopened in 1992 under the ownership of Riverside businessman Duane R. Roberts, and remains a beloved part of its community with staff playing key roles in the community’s annual Festival of Lights and Ghost Walk.
Room prices typically range from $239 to $1,679 per night, but special offers throughout the year can bring those rates down into the more affordable $155 to $909 range.
In 2016, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa was named the Best Historic Hotel in the 201-400 guest room category by Historic Hotels of America®, an initiative of the U.S. National Trust for Historic Preservation. According to NTHP representatives, in order to be “selected for membership into this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old; [have] been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and recognized as having historic significance.”
Winners of the award are typically celebrated for having “faithfully maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity in the United States of America.”
For more information or to book a room and make your own Riverside history, visit the Inn’s website.