Many families migrated to California following the Civil War, hoping for a better life and improved health, or an escape from the cold winters of the Midwest and East. Christopher Columbus Miller, a Civil War veteran and surveyor, left his family in Tomah, Wisconsin in 1874 and came to Riverside. The new town was only four years old, founded by fervent abolitionists Judge John Welsey North and Dr. James P. Greves. Riverside was a dry dusty place at the time, with nothing ahead but promise. C. C. Miller worked laying out an irrigation canal and conducting land surveys. In October of 1874, his wife Mary Ann Clark Miller and their four children joined him (Klotz, 1982).
The following year, C. C. Miller acquired a large parcel of land in Riverside. This block of land would become the home of Riverside’s most fantastic piece of architecture, the Mission Inn. The Miller family built a home there of adobe bricks and stone, and covered it with clapboard. The first boarder, Albert S. White, moved into the Miller family’s Glenwood Cottage shortly thereafter (Klotz, 1982).
In 1880, Frank Augustus Miller, the eldest son of C. C. and Mary Ann Clark Miller, bought the Glenwood and the entire city block from his father for $5,000 (Gale, 1938). He was twenty three years old, and had worked hard to save enough money for the purchase. That same year, he married Isabella Hardenberg, one of Riverside’s first schoolteachers. Isabella had also been a boarder at the Glenwood. Within two years, Miller enlarged his hotel; the two-story addition cost $10,000 and included thirty new guest rooms, a dining room, office, reading room, and parlor (Klotz, 1982).
In 1902, with investment funding from a stock cooperative, railroad magnate and business leader Henry E. Huntington, as well as his own money, Frank Miller built a new Glenwood hotel (Gale, 1938). The architecture of the new Glenwood reflected the recently popular Mission Revival style. The old family home remained on the grounds of the property, next to the new hotel. Workers stripped the clapboard from the house and removed the second story, in keeping with the Mission Revival style, Frank Miller renamed the building the “Old Adobe." The hotel opened in January 1903. The Glenwood became the Glenwood Mission Inn and, ultimately, the Mission Inn. Public response showed Frank Miller had stumbled into something big. As "Master of the Inn," Miller capitalized upon his colorful revision of California’s history and continued to expand his hotel over the next thirty years.
Mr. Miller was a fascinating man, a combination of showman and promoter, businessman and community leader. He never missed an opportunity to develop and market Riverside and the Mission Inn. The placement of the hotel’s Cloister Art Shop, managed for many years by his daughter Allis, insured every guest would have an opportunity to see and purchase items to take home. “Dramatize what you do” was one of his favorite phrases, and he borrowed liberally from California’s history to create a sense of the past at his new hotel. The Congregationalist Sunday school teacher sometimes even dressed as a padre; friends would call him Father Frank, as if he were a member of the Spanish clergy who had established the original California Missions himself (Gale, 1938).
Mr. Miller and his family traveled and collected. They brought back hundreds of decorative items for the hotel. One little bell Allis sent back from Europe grew to a collection of close to eight hundred bells (Moore, 1998). Friends of the Millers and the hotel helped add to their collections as well. Guests could purchase books with information on the various collections. These artful accumulations not only made a visit to the hotel a unique experience – they also contributed to the need to expand the hotel.
In all that Miller did to bring people to his doorstep, he continued to adhere to his moral and religious convictions. He made friends easily, counting industrialists, politicians, newspapermen, and celebrities among his circle. His lack of formal education did not hinder these associations. He joined with influential men, including University of Southern California President Rufus von Kleinsmid and Dr. Ray Wilbur, president of Stanford University, to found the Institute of World Affairs (Gale, 1938). This organization of learned individuals and social leaders worked to find peaceful alternatives to war. The institution gradually evolved into today’s respected Council of World Affairs.
Miller always treated his guests like friends of the family. Miller touched people so deeply because he cared for them, regardless of their background. His parents attended Oberlin College, an institution that battled slavery. Perhaps this, along with his mother’s Quaker convictions, and the fact that most of his early childhood friends in Tomah, Wisconsin were Winnebago Indians, contributed to his becoming a civic leader who worked tirelessly to protect the civil rights of minorities (Gale, 1938).
Miller never lost sight of the importance of his own family. His wife Isabella Miller died in 1908. She is memorialized as St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, in a beautiful three-part stained glass window in the Cloister Music Room. At her shoulder sits her pet macaw, Joseph. In 1910, Miller married Marion Clark in New York City. Marion was a trusted member of the Mission Inn staff. For many years, the couple enjoyed their home, named Mariona, in Laguna Beach.
The Miller family included Frank’s brother Ed, who was initially in charge of transportation and later supervised the motor pool. Historian Esther Klotz said that Ed Miller “was excellent with women, horses and carriages, and later with automobiles” (Koltz, 1982, p.12). Frank’s sister Emma married Gustavus O. Newman, a noted civil engineer. Newman worked for the Southern Pacific railroads, supervised the construction of bridges, and played an important role in the development of Riverside as chief engineer of the Pacific Light and Power Company (Riverside Enterprise, December 5, 1921, p.3).
Frank’s sister Alice married Frank Richardson in 1885. She and her husband began to manage the Glenwood Hotel shortly after their wedding. Mr. Richardson passed away in 1906, and Alice turned her life’s energy toward managing the Mission Inn until her death in 1938. Frank Miller’s daughter, Allis Hutchings, and her husband, DeWitt Hutchings, succeeded her as owners and managers of the Inn.
Frank Miller died in 1935. Lost with Mr. Miller’s passing were his creativity, drive, promotional abilities, and vision. Allis and DeWitt Hutchings took over the running of the hotel, but they faced formidable changes in the travel industry. The dramatic rise in use of the automobile, along with new resort destinations and activities, made the Mission Inn seem outdated and out of fashion. Business at the Mission Inn began to slip. People no longer stayed at the hotel for extended periods; Palm Springs and other locations had replaced Riverside as a popular destination. The couple struggled to keep the hotel open and tried to attract new guests by adding modern amenities. The South Seas-inspired Lea Lea room, decorated with large tikis, bamboo, and palm fronds, opened in 1939 (Klotz, 1982). It became a favorite place for dancing, especially for the airmen and soldiers stationed at March Field and Camp Hahn. In 1948, a swimming pool, "El Agua Azul," replaced the Old Adobe. Mr. and Mrs. Hutchings died within four months of each other – Allis in 1952, DeWitt in 1953. Their three children sold the hotel in 1956 to Benjamin Swig of San Francisco, and the Miller family's 80-year ownership came to a close.
Gale, Zona. (1938). Frank Miller of Mission Inn. New York: D. Appleton-Century Company.
Klotz, Esther. (1982). The Mission Inn: Its History and Artifacts. Riverside, CA: Rubidoux Printing.
Moore, Barbara. (Ed.). (1998). Historic Mission Inn. Riverside, CA: Friends of the Mission Inn.