Sunday, January 24, 2010

Buildings As Old Friends

The Mission Inn

We frequently associate coolness with newness. It is easy to do in a technology based world. Every day we use phones, computers, and cars that just seem to get better, safer, and more fuel efficient with every passing year. The immediate horizon beckons with the next generation of technological wizardry including stunning new commercial aircraft such as the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

But, as nice as anticipating the future can be, an awful lot of my favorite travel revolves around seeing how good (and sometimes bad) things were in the past.  

When truly magnificent old treasures are preserved and remain functional in the modern world, it is especially wonderful. 

Lately, I've had a couple of chances to visit one such place; The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa in Riverside California.

Some years back, while working on a project for the City of Riverside, I watched as its then redevelopment director (Ralph Megna), and some leading citizens (folks such as Henry Coil), worked tirelessly to save Riverside's architectural heritage. One of Riverside's first big "win's" came with the re-opening of the meticulously reconstructed Mission Inn. 

There is Only One Mission Inn

I know today Riverside is not on everyones "Must See" LA travel list, but the Mission Inn stands as testament to a time when the Citrus groves of the Inland Empire of Southern California made Riverside the wealthiest city per capita in the US and provided a warm and relaxing retreat for movie stars, executives, politicians, and wealthy Europeans. 

The Inn was a work in progress for its owner Frank Miller from 1903 to 1931. Each wing of this confection has rooms designed in differing styles and fitted with different features. You may want a two story rooftop room that would have made Rudolph Valentino feel perfectly at home. Or perhaps you'd prefer a room near the front courtyard with it big pool and parrots. Depending upon the wing, you can get rooms with fireplaces, prayer niches, and/or stained glass.

The Rotunda

There is an exquisite collection of bells, a fine wood paneled cocktail bar that has served 10 presidents, big comfy chairs in the gracious lobby (including an especially wide chair built to comfortably house President Taft - who weighed 350 pounds), a wedding chapel complete with windows acquired directly from Tiffany and an 18K gold leafed altar. 

The Chapel in the Atrio

I particularly love the California Glockenspeil complete with a life sized Padre Serra, Indian, and a gold miner who endlessly walk around and around every hour on the hour.

The Inner Courtyard With The California Inspired Glockenspiel

A few weeks back a fine meal confirmed that the food services are now at a par befitting the quality of the place. We had a rotisserie chicken that was nothing short of outstanding.

The Inn is the perfect place for a special event, Sunday brunch, or just a delightful get away for Los Angelinos.

Sometime's I note TripAdvisor comments about the Inn where someone points out that lights in a room didn't all work, or the internet was spotty. While I understand their momentary inconvenience, it cracks me up that some spoiled travelers can be so vacuous. Just remember, this magnificent Inn is truly a living treasure. And, like any other really old and unique thing, sometimes everything doesn't work to 2010 standards. 

Personally I say, enjoy the beauty of what it does well. After all, it isn't fair to measure such a place by what it doesn't do, unless you also recognize it offers an experience that cannot be matched by any other hotel in California! 

 A Beautiful Reminder of California's History

I agree with Will Rogers who declared the Mission Inn to be:
"the most unique hotel in America. It is a monastery, a museum, a fine home, a boardinghouse, a mission, an art gallery, and an aviator's shrine" 

Roadboy's Travels @ 2010

PS: Sorry about the quality of these photo's - my cool, modern, trusty I-phone does the best it can, despite me!

1 comment:

Cindy said...

Thanks for sharing! Just beautiful; Love the rotunda. Another to add to my list! :)