After nearly two years of renovation and seismic upgrades, downtown Riverside’s historic Municipal Auditorium was rededicated by city officials during an open house held earlier this month.
Included in the $10 million makeover of the 1928-29 structure is better seating, lighting, acoustics and fully-renovated lower level and backstage areas. A large open area in front of the stage allows for multiple uses (banquet-style table setup or extended theater-style seating) while loge seating offers a commanding view of the building’s rich, Mission-influenced designs.
As one of downtown’s historic gems, the Auditorium’s Mission Revival style using reinforced concrete was a collaboration between architects Arthur B. Benton and Riverside’s G. Stanley Wilson (both of whom also worked on separate wings of the Mission Inn). Along the Lemon Street side of the Auditorium is an arched, cloister walkway, sunken courtyard and free-standing arches toward the rear. Out front, colorful tiles adorn Moorish-influenced domes atop the building’s towers. Also noteworthy is the star-shaped window and large eagle perched atop the building.
One room typically off limits but open during the public event was a medium-sized room located on the second level. Adorning the walls is dark-hued wainscoting, several ornate light sconces (each with an eagle and 13 stars) and six elongated WPA-era paintings depicting various creeds: Liberty, Education, Health, Labor, Peace and Government. Hanging high above are eight depression-era lights, illuminating the beamed ceiling above and the wooden floor below. Elsewhere, the front-facing wall contains three circular windows, two rectangular windows and two sets of French-style doors for an exterior balcony. This room left no doubt about the building’s original time period.
Currently standing in for conventions and gatherings while Raincross Square convention center a few blocks to the west is being rebuilt, the newly-renovated Auditorium is using the temporary name: Riverside Auditorium and Events Center. (However, the land on which the Auditorium sits was deeded to the city by Mission Inn founder Frank Miller with the stipulation the property be maintained in perpetuity as a soldiers’ memorial. Thus, the city says the original name remains and will return to the forefront following the convention center rebuild.)
Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise