Monday, February 7, 2011

Riverside, CA: Mission Inn

(Photo from Mission Inn website)

I pen this blog on February 6, 2011, cognizant that it would have been the 100th birthday of one of the best loved of our recent US Presidents, Ronald Reagan. In an effort to honor his memory, we’ll feature the hotel where he and his bride Nancy spent the first night together of their very happy married life.

The Mission Inn is located in Riverside, California, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, and is that city’s #1 landmark. In addition to the Reagans, who honeymooned there, and the Richard Nixons, who got married there, it has played host to eight additional US Presidents (partial list includes Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, and George W. Bush) and at least one California Governor during his tenure (Arnold Schwarzenegger). A greatly edited list of social leaders and entertainment giants who’ve been there includes Susan B. Anthony, Jack Benny, Andrew Carnegie, Bette Davis (who was married there), Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, William Randolph Hearst, Bob Hope, Harry Houdini, Helen Keller, Joseph Pulitzer, John D. Rockefeller, Booker T. Washington, James Brolin and Barbra Streisand. It has also drawn its share of artists.

Don O'Neill's watercolor, Mission Inn Towers.

What we’re wondering is, why haven’t we been there? We may have to rectify that!

The Mission Inn was built primarily in the first 35 years of the 20th century, as an addition to a small, late 19th century structure. Generally considered the largest Mission Revival building in the United States, it is actually an eclectic collection of styles, including (for the architecturally-minded) Spanish Gothic, Spanish Colonial, Spanish Colonial Revival, Mission Revival , Moorish Revival, Renaissance Revival, and Mediterranean Revival. With all those revivals, I’m surprised not to have seen Oral Roberts' name on the past guest list!

(Photo from Mission Inn website)

When I view this photo, especially with the bougainvillea in bloom, it seems a bit much. But at a time when so many hotels—like cars—look generic, I find it almost refreshing (in a busy sort of way) that this one doesn’t. And what’s wrong with saying, “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there”? It is, after all, a hotel. And, no doubt about it, this one is interesting!

The Mission Inn contains narrow passageways, flying buttresses, a Cloister Wing (with catacombs), castle towers, minarets, a medieval-style clock, leaded- and stained-glass windows, a five-story rotunda, Mediterranean domes, a pedestrian skybridge, and two original mosaics by Louis Comfort Tiffany (per Wikipedia).

032409 Riverside Mission Inn 086
(Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Gerry la Londe-Berg)
This shot looks somewhat more subdued and is very reminiscent of the Green Hotel / Castle Green in Pasadena, which was built about the same time.

032409 Riverside Mission Inn 097
Photo courtesy of Gerry la Londe-Berg

(Photo courtesy of Saroy)

Placing one’s foot onto this property must feel like stepping into a different place or time—or both.

(Photo from Mission Inn website)

(Photo from Mission Inn website)
Mission Inn Restaurant

(Photo from Mission Inn website)
Las Campanas, probably taken during the Festival of Lights

The rooms at the Mission Inn are individually decorated. The basic rooms are quite plain in d├ęcor. Below are some upgrades. The hotel has been in the process of remodeling, so you might want to request a remodeled room if you go.
(Photo from Expedia)

(Photo from Expedia)

(Photo from the Mission Inn website)
One of the Presidential Suites, of which no two are alike

The above Presidential Suite has amazing architecture, but the furniture, even though the style is in keeping with the room, seems a little tired to me. The website wouldn’t allow me to copy a photo of their Superior Presidential Suite, which was updated and upscale, with fresh white slipcovers on the chairs in the living area and a beautiful trestled and vaulted wood ceiling.

The Mission Inn has a TripAdvisor rating of 3.5. One would hope for better. Some problem areas seem to be:

• Noise from events, which are big at the hotel and can be very loud and go till the wee hours. Ask for a quiet room away from wedding/party functions.

• Noise from the street. The property fills a city block, so is bordered by streets on all four sides. Some past guests complained of the loud revving of motorcycles on the busy roads. Because some or all of the windows are original, they are lovely, but provide no improved sound insulation.

• Necessity of early booking for the hotel’s restaurants, even for breakfast. It is especially crowded during the winter Festival of Lights.

Having said that, the consensus seems to be that it’s a real treat to visit the property and explore its nooks and crannies and quirky architecture. The area around the inn is also said to be interesting and full of character.

And if some relaxation is needed after a night of poor sleep, the spa looks very, very inviting!

(Photo from R.D. Olson Construction website)
The Spa

Hmm, we have an anniversary coming up. If we’re early enough to get brunch reservations, maybe, in honor of the Gipper…

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