Another interesting Miller addition was the "Flier's Wall," in the outer court of the St. Francis Chapel. Designed to commemorate the great aviators of the century, the wall is adorned with brass wing emblems, each personally engraved by the pilots who made scheduled stops at the Mission Inn. Among those who rested from their aerial jaunts at the inn were Amelia Earhart, Gen. Curtis LeMay and Gen. Jimmy Doolittle.
After Frank Miller's death in 1935, the inn gradually slipped into disrepair and, eventually, bankruptcy. By 1976 it was scheduled for demolition.
In stepped the taxpayer-supported Riverside Redevelopment Agency. By buying the structure, for about $2 million, the agency prevented the loss of what its members called an important historical landmark.
On Oct. 30, 1977, the inn was designated a national landmark and turned over to the Mission Inn Foundation for restoration.
The restoration became a civic project. Community groups such as the YMCA, the Woman's Club and the Kiwanis volunteered time and services to the project. Their efforts brought in more than $1 million in donations.
But costs were much steeper than expected, and the project was shelved until 1984, when Carly Mission Partners bought the inn and resumed renovation.
In 1988, with 70% of the restoration complete, Carly Mission Partners also ran short of funds. And, in December, 1988, the Henzin Holding Corp., a subsidiary of Chemical Bank in New York (which made the original loan to Carly Mission Partners), assumed the project.
Under the supervision of Joseph Yousem, the renovation of the Mission Inn has finally been completed. According to Yousem, fine artisans and craftsmen from around the world have been working to restore the hotel as closely as possible to its original state.
Yousem said his team has managed to preserve the historical fabric of the hotel, in accordance with the guidelines of local, state and national historical societies. Simultaneously, he said, the structure has been brought up to modern building and safety codes. The final cost of the refurbishment has been estimated at $50 million.
The Mission Inn's modern visitors will find several new features, including a museum along the Rotunda wing that will house many of the treasures of the hotel's past. It will be operated by the Mission Inn Foundation, which also will continue to conduct inn tours.
Several prospective buyers for the hotel are said by its developers to be waiting to reopen the inn. Negotiations for the sale are under way, according to project director Yousem, who declined to identify the bidders.
Meanwhile, citizens and merchants of Riverside continue to celebrate their famous landmark with a variety of local events. Every Wednesday evening the city stages a street fair around the Mission Inn. The event, "Downtown Wednesday Night," features food, entertainment, arts and crafts exhibits and walking tours of the inn grounds beginning at 6:45 p.m. The tour is free.
The Mission Inn Foundation schedules the same hourlong tour every Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m. During these "Sidewalk Strolls," docents share facts and stories about the history and development of the landmark, ending the tour at the Mission Inn gift shop.
The Mission Inn in Riverside is off the Pomona Freeway (Interstate 60), at 3649 Seventh St. To join a tour without a reservation, meet by 10 a.m. Friday or Saturday at the corner of Sixth and Main streets. For special group tours or further information regarding walking tours or the Wednesday night street fair, call the Mission Inn Foundation at (714) 781-8241.