One of downtown Riverside’s oldest buildings dating from the late 1800s will soon disappear as a plan for an arts school for Riverside Community College District moves forward.
Located at the southwest corner of Market Street and University Avenue, the building in question was originally built as a sanitarium by Dr. Clark Whittier, a wealthy Canadian who bought what was then a muddy marsh in 1881. Bounded by Market, Chestnut, Eighth (University) and Tenth streets, the unimproved land had been designated for public use following the removal of similar plans on land bounded by Market, Main, Seventh (Mission Inn) and Eighth (University) streets.
Whittier cleaned up and improved the land, creating the planned public park (which later became known as White Park). In exchange, Whittier was granted building rights on portions along Eighth (University) and Tenth streets, with the southwest corner of Eighth and Market becoming the location for his sanitarium in 1884. (A street separating the sanitarium site from White Park still bears Whittier’s name to this day.)
Originally referred to as Park House, it appears Whittier’s plan for a health spa/sanitarium never fully materialized as he soon allowed Frank Miller, then of the Glenwood Hotel (pre-Mission Inn era), to begin leasing out its 20 rooms and five large bathrooms. (It’s also likely during Miller’s managing of the building that its name was changed to Park Hotel, as is seen in at least one early photo.)
In 1894, Whittier’s widow sold the building to David and Flora Cochrane for $12,000. The Cochranes, also of Canada, remodeled the rooms and renamed the building Hotel Holyrood in 1895. The new name was likely in reference to the Holyrood district of Edinburgh, Scotland (and a nod to David’s Scottish roots).
In 1900, the Cochranes added large expansions along both Eighth and Market streets, increasing the hotel’s size to accommodate 100 guests.
In 1924, new owner Pliny T. Evans — son of early Riverside leader, Samuel C. Evans — streamlined the original building’s rustic, three-story mansard-style facade. Evans modernized the interior, converting 70 rooms and 5 bathrooms into 40 larger rooms and 15-20 baths. (Although city permits indicate the 1924 remodeling may have included a new corner building, it’s unclear whether this was actually the case. Later newspaper accounts report it as being gutted and remodeled, which exterior photos seem to confer.)
We’re not certain when rooms stopped being rented, but a 1980 newspaper article about possible redevelopment for a “modern high-rise” indicates rooms were still occupied. More recently, we seem to recall upper spaces still in use during the mid- to late-1990s.
City permits show the various street level spaces housed several commercial entities over the years, including at least one restaurant (Chung King), two furniture stores (Riverside Home Appliance, Raymonds), a shoe store (Greenwood Shoe), a print shop (American Speedy Printing), a market and deli (Atlas Market), a development firm (Peri & Associates), a skateboard shop (Crooks) and a psychic reader (Psychic Experience).
Though not a particularly striking building in its own right, we’ve come to admire the old Hotel Plaza building more in recent years, mostly for its place in downtown Riverside’s early history. But we’ve also come to appreciate its old-school “urbanity” — fire escapes, cluttered backside — not found much these days, particularly in predominately suburban towns like Riverside.
Along with the demolition of all three buildings that comprise the Hotel Holyrood/Plaza, an adjacent building (3845 Market Street) will also come down. Together, the four structures are to be replaced by a $24 million, 51,600 sq. ft. building that will house RCC’s Culinary Arts Academy and administrative offices. The new three-story building will include a rooftop reception area. Completion is expected by April 2014.
Situated behind the new Culinary Arts building will be the focal point of the district’s overall arts school plan — the $63.2 million, 88,862 sq. ft. Henry W. and Alice Edna Coil School for the Arts***, which received a $5 million grant from longtime local builder Henry Coil Jr. It will include two levels of underground parking and be situated on an existing parking lot behind the Market Street buildings. This later phase is expected to be completed by Fall 2015.
One exception to the overall demolition plans on the site is the restoration of the former Riverside Finance/Citrus Belt/Sterling Savings building. Located on Market Street adjacent to White Park, it will be remade into the $6.3 million, 11,000 sq. ft. Center for Social Justice and Civil Liberties.
Expected to open in June 2012, the center will contain two floors of gallery space and house the college’s Mine Okubo archival collection. Riverside-native Okubo was a Japanese-American civil rights advocate and alumna of RCC. She bequeathed her collection to the college upon her death in February 2001.
The most interesting aspect of the 85-year-old building’s refurbishment is the uncovering of its original ornate facade, which appeared again this week after being hidden behind a false-front for the past 50 years. Designed by well-known Los Angeles architect Stiles O. Clements (Wiltern Theater, Mayan Theatre), a 1926 newspaper article described the building and its facade as follows:
Plans have been completed for the handsome new office building of the Riverside Finance Company, at Market Street and Whittier Place. … (the building) emphasizes a classical architectural design … with an arched entrance of distinctive metropolitan character. … The ceiling will be unusually high, giving a dignified and attractive effect to the interior of the building.
Riverside Press – Aug. 1926
The classic facade was later hidden behind a flat stucco wall held up by steel beams added around the bank (and adjacent building). The wall was then partially shielded by thin, horizontal slats, giving the building a sleek and modern look popular at the time. City permits seem to indicate this took place in 1961 for then-tenant Citrus Belt Savings & Loan.
Through the years, at least two other banks — Sterling Savings & Loan and Imperial Savings — have also occupied the space (we also recall Provident Savings Bank may have had a branch there at some point as well).
A few years back, a hole was punched into the front stucco facade, revealing the still-existing, 1926 Spanish Baroque (Churrigueresque) facade. This revelation no doubt helped save the building as part of the upcoming arts school complex. (We’re glad to see RCCD make such preservation efforts.)
In a ground-breaking ceremony held last Thursday for the project, college officials finally unveiled the classic facade. Down came the stucco wall and portions of brick veneer on the side of the building. Also removed was some form of faux marble veneer at the base of the building, revealing brick underneath (which is likely a covering of some sorts as well).
Overall, the 1926 facade looks to be in relatively good shape, though there are portions that appear to have been damaged and possibly even shaved down during the 1961 covering. Hopefully, the refurbishment will be able to fully restore these portions.
Though we’re glad to see the arts school moving forward and are very happy to see the preservation of the old Riverside Finance building, we’ll be sad to see the Hotel Holyrood/Plaza come down.
- Old Riverside Foundation – Citrus Belt Savings & Loan – REVEALED!! (June 24, 2011)
- Riverside Press-Enterprise – College district readies downtown projects (Nov. 21, 2010) | Henry Coil gives RCC $5 million; largest gift ever (Oct. 6, 2010)
- Riverside Community College District – $5 Million Gift Will Support Riverside School for the Arts; Largest Gift in College’s History (Sept. 29, 2010)
- RCCD – Riverside School for the Arts
Images courtesy of: * Riverside Metropolitan Museum, ** Steve Lech, *** Riverside Community College District
Sources: “Riverside’s Invisible Past” (Joan Hall), The Press-Enterprise, City of Riverside, Riverside Public Library, “Riverside – 1870-1940” (Steve Lech), Old Riverside Foundation