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This week, we're exploring a few historic churches in Riverside. For the religious and nonreligious, churches often represent the best architecture of a community. This is true for Riverside, a city of known for its special buildings. At least two Riverside churches occupy significant places in Southern California architectural history.
To complete this challenge: Run, walk, bike or otherwise move 1K, anywhere you like, representing one historic site in the challenge, for a total of 5K per challenge per week. Take a selfie or another picture of you and your friends at each historic site and share it on www.missioninnrun.org and your own social media with the hashtag #MissionInnRun. Not in Riverside? You can still meet the challenge by completing the distance component.
How to submit your results: Visit www.missioninnrun.org and click on the Results page. Click Submit Results and log in. In the drop-down button, select the Riverside Historic Landmark Weekly Challenge, select which historic site you visited, fill in your distance/time information and submit!
The oldest organized Riverside church occupies a significant place in architectural history. The first services were held in 1872 in the school building of the new Riverside colony. A small New England style church with a steeple was constructed in 1873 at Sixth and Vine and served the expanding congregation until a larger building was completed on the current site in 1886.
After the turn of the century, Frank Miller and other prominent church members wanted a new building. Their specifications called for a “Spanish Renaissance” style, a term often interchanged with “Spanish Revival. “ Architect Myron Hunt submitted the winning proposal. Hunt was one of the most famous architects in California. He built the Rose Bowl, the Ambassador Hotel, and the Huntington mansion at the Huntington Library. At that time, he also was working on the Spanish Wing of the Mission Inn. The church was completed in 1913.
Historians date the change from Mission Revival to Spanish Revival to the 1915 California Tower built in San Diego’s Balboa Park for the 1915 the Panama California International Exposition. Riverside’s First Congregational Church tower is similar to the tower of the California Building and was built over a year earlier. This makes it one of the very first Spanish Revival Style structures in California.
The dignified little church on the corner of Mission Inn Ave. and Lemon St. also dates to the early days of the Riverside colony. In 1881, Universalist church members invited a pastor from Minnesota to head their congregation. Ten years later, the pastor purchased the corner site and hired architect A.C. Willard, a recent arrival from Colorado Springs. Willard prepared a Norman Gothic design that was constructed of a special Arizona red sandstone. It was completed in 1892. Seventy years later in the early 1960s, City planners proposed removing the church to clear the block for a new, modern library. The community said no. Even though it was an era preoccupied with modern things, Riversiders were not willing to give up what one historian called “The Elegant Little Stone Church. “ Today the church shares the site with the Mid-Century Modern library.
One of the most significant local architects of the postwar modern era was Clinton Marr. Like many young architects of his era, he came out of the war with little interest in the historic styles of the past. The young architects designed Modern Style buildings that combined new structural concepts with innovative techniques and construction materials. The general style of the postwar era later became known as Mid-Century Modern. In the late 50s, Marr created one of the region’s most unusual buildings of any sort for the Wesley United Methodist Church. The church is round with continuous folded plates that circle the structure, forming both walls and roof. The use of gunite, a sprayed concrete mix, permitted the construction of these plate forms. The pebbled glass in the large triangular windows between the plates allow a natural, glare-free light into the sanctuary. For some the little church resembles a crown, for others an unfolding flower.
The 120-year old First Church of Christ Science, in spite of its age, was not the first Mission Revival Style building in Riverside. A long-gone railroad station bears that distinction. However, the church remains the oldest Riverside building still standing of that iconic style. Passages in Christian Science literature refer to it as "the church that introduced Christian Science to Southern California.” This new American religion originated in Boston in the late 1870s and was introduced to Riverside by an early practitioner shortly thereafter. Several in Frank Miller’s family joined and his sister was on the church board.
At the turn of the century, the congregation hired architect Arthur Benton, a well-known advocate of the Mission Revival Style. Benton created a building with a front façade that has a classical look with columns and a pediment. However, it is very similar to the façade of the Santa Barbara Mission that has the same features. The first services were held in February, 1901 to a turn-away crowd from all over Southern California and a sanctuary full of flowers.
Arthur Benton and Frank Miller became acquainted during this time. Miller was working on expanding the family hostelry to a large destination hotel, so popular in that era. Benton convinced him to use the Mission Revival Style, and the new Mission Inn was born.
The best view of this excellent Spanish Revival Style building is in the middle of the busy Arlington Ave. -- Brockton Ave. intersection. It is best that a passenger take the picture. It was not always crowded on this corner. In 1945, a former Catholic Army chaplain was assigned to serve seventeen black families in the area. He bought an orange grove with a house and barn, served by a country road. Racial and religious resistance stalled his efforts to form a church, but by 1946, he had the necessary permits to establish an official Catholic Church. The first service was held in the barn on June 9, 1946. Afterwards, everyone went to the Mission Inn for breakfast. The drafty barn served for the next two years, when a surplus building from the former Camp Anza Army Base was moved to the site. Mass and services continued in this building in both English and Spanish for the next ten years.
As part of the approval deal with the City, the new church had agreed to allow Mary St. to be extended through the farm property. The City developed the Brockton Arcade, and that portion of the street name was changed to Brockton Ave. Across the new street, the church eventually developed St. Catherine School and Notre Dame High School. The Anza building was moved to the school site in 1956, when the ground was broken for a permanent building. The large elegant structure has a dramatic setting in spite of the busy intersection. It represents one of the best examples in the region of the Spanish Revival Style, with such features as tall asymmetrical towers, recessed portico entrance, tile and wrought iron, and sidewall buttresses. St. Catherine’s symbol is a wheel, which seems appropriate for the location of the edifice that honors her.