Results tagged “pedestrian mall” from Raincross Square


From the eclectic Mission Inn and magnificent County Courthouse to the modern City Hall and mid-century public library, downtown Riverside is rich in architectural history and variety. Fortunately, many of these gems are within walking distance down a few adjoining streets. As such, we've created a few short circular, self-guided tours -- Mission Inn Avenue, University Avenue and Main Street.

The three tours, which we first produced for, can easily be completed within 1 to 2 hours each (depending, of course, on how fast you walk). So print out the articles, put on your walking shoes, grab a bottle of water and be sure to bring your camera!

TOUR: MISSION INN AVENUE | MAP: View a larger Google Maps of this tour

TOUR: UNIVERSITY AVENUE | MAP: View a larger Google Maps of this tour

TOUR: MAIN STREET | MAP: View a larger Google Maps of this tour

3750 Main Street - former Franzen / Westbrook's / Imperial hardware stores

Westbrook's Hardware

Pedestrian Mall

Imperial Hardware

Removal of Imperial false-front

Preparing to enter

Level one

Rickety stairs to level two

Level two

Damaged ceilings

Ladies' lounge wallpaper



Freight elevator

What does one find upon entering a building that's been out of public use for much of the past 40 years? A few weeks back, we were lucky enough to find out as we ventured along with fellow Old Riverside Foundation members into the long-shuttered Franzen / Westbrook's / Imperial hardware building at 3750 Main Street. Allowing us access and helping lead the tour were several officials with the city of Riverside, including Carl Carey, Emilio Ramirez, Robert Wise, Erin Gettis and councilmen Mike Gardner and Andy Melendrez.

The structure itself dates back to at least 1900 when Franzen Hardware opened its doors. Owned by Henry and Chris Franzen, the store was later sold in 1921 to R.H. Westbrook, whose family had become partners with the Franzen's in 1908. Following a 1935 fire that wiped out most of the stock, the building was refurbished, restocked and renamed Westbrook's Hardware. Part of the post-fire remodeling included the Art Deco façade visible today.

In September 1959, Westbrook's was sold to El Centro-based Imperial Hardware Co., a small chain of 14 hardware and housewares stores in Southern California, this according to an article in the Riverside Press. City permits indicate Imperial covered up the Westbrook's façade in 1964 with a modern false-front -- a common practice at the time. Imperial remained until 1972 before relocating to the then relatively new Tyler Mall (where it lasted for a short period).

For whatever reason, a replacement tenant for the old building never materialized. As such, Imperial's sleek metal front remained intact until June 2007, when its removal re-exposed the impressive 1930s Art Deco façade.

Upon signing waivers, grabbing flashlights and donning hard hats, it was time for us to explore the dark and mysterious interior. What would we find? How bad was its condition? Was anything salvageable?

On level one, we immediately noticed lots of dust and debris and what appeared to be various amounts of stored items (more on this later). As we lumbered around, we saw that the 2-level plus basement structure was comprised of two buildings unified into a single store. A large central wall separated the two nearly-equal parts, with cutouts allowing passage between the northern and southern sections.

Along the main wall in the middle of the northern section was an L-shaped stairway to the basement. Nearby, a small passenger elevator waited patiently, call buttons still intact. Tucked in the corner at the back was a freight elevator. Another stairway, this one heading up to level two, stood crumbling close by. Its heavily soiled carpet indeed had seen better days.

The building contained two more stairways: a third in the northern section just inside the building's main entrance, which headed directly to the basement; and a fourth -- the only stairway in the southern section -- leading up to a small mezzanine level in the back. Decorative metal railing lined it and the mezzanine's balcony.

After our initial surprise of actually being inside the building wore off and our eyes gained traction in the dark, realization that the interior had suffered serious neglect over the past 40-plus years was quite evident.

Throughout, the floor was covered in dust and debris -- and yes, a fair amount of bird excrement. Hanging down in several spots was water damaged ceiling tiles. Front window casements on level two looked old and tired. A room on the same level had large holes in the roof exposing the sky above. And while some lighting fixtures were present, none appeared ready to illuminate our tour.

In general, both the basement and level two were free of large items. Support poles and crumbling debris -- particularly on level two -- provided much of the scenery. However, the ground level contained fair amounts of stored items. Everything from old office equipment, furniture and décor to aging bankers boxes stuffed with business records, some of which had escaped and now littered the floor.

An unexpected discovery was various items for Woodhaven Development (one | two), a once mighty Riverside home builder. (It's believed the building at one time had been owned by David Miller of Miller's Outpost fame and Woodhaven.)

Probably one of the most curious finds was a 12-inch, encircled "W" inlaid on the floor immediately in front of the passenger elevator on level two. No doubt this logo stood for Westbrook's.

Elsewhere, a few other surprises greeted us. On level two was what appeared to be the former "Appliance" section, with decorative mid-century lattice. Also on level two was the ladies lounge / restroom, which looked probably as it did 40 years earlier, with most fixtures and décor still in place including sinks, toilets and Victorian style wallpaper (one | two). (On a related note, remnants for at least seven styles of wallpaper were present in the building, including one | two | three.)

In the basement, we noticed blackened bricks along the southern wall, likely from the 1935 fire that destroyed much of what was then Franzen's Hardware. Next, we stumbled upon a Lamson pneumatic tube system likely dating from the 1930s. Attached to a support pole were two tubes that emptied into a metal basket. The tubes followed a ceiling beam toward the rear, possibly ending up in the southern section's mezzanine level.

Affixed to the same support pole next to the tube system, we found a typed phone listing with extensions for the once vibrant departments: Hardware, Appliances, Furniture, Carpet, Drapery, Housewares, China, Sporting Goods, Credit and Delivery. Scribbled nearby were a few old Riverside "OVerland" exchange phone numbers as well as the address for Lindgren's Hardware (which is still doing business on Brockton Ave.). Lastly, our flashlights spotted a near-mint price tag for Imperial Hardware Co. hanging from a nail, adding context to our other finds.

Overall, it seems the tour left most of us scratching our heads wondering why the building had been left to essentially rot for 40 years. Undoubtedly, lots of cleanup was needed. But was there anything worth grabbing? Yes indeed. And was the interior itself salvageable? Probably not.

And though we understand various redevelopment plans have been floated in recent years, we're hopeful the city -- which now owns the building -- will find a compatible re-use for it. Certainly, incorporating the building's shell into any new pedestrian mall friendly development seems plausible, and in fact, even warranted considering it's probably the best Art Deco façade remaining in Riverside.



Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Public Library, "Riverside in Postcards" (Steve Lech), "Riverside - Then & Now" (Glenn Edward Freeman)

19th Annual 'Festival of Lights'


Final preparations for the
Mission Inn (top) and the ice rink

Main Street near the Mission Inn

The 19th Annual Festival of Lights is set to begin Friday afternoon (Nov. 25) in downtown Riverside, with the official "switch-on" ceremony & fireworks taking place just after 5:00 p.m. in front of the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa. (Be sure to arrive early for the opening night ceremony!)

Each year, thousands of visitors gather in and around the Mission Inn and along the downtown pedestrian mall for the daily festivities, which includes 3.6 million holiday lights, 400 animated figures -- one of the country's largest holiday displays.

Roving carolers, carriage rides, an ice rink, live entertainment, shopping, dining and -- of course -- photos with Santa round out the festivities.

This year's Festival runs daily from November 25 through January 8, 2012 (excepting Christmas).

As usual, free parking (street and garage) is available after 5 p.m. on weekdays and all day on the weekends and holidays. Your best bet is within five parking garages:

You can also check out activity via two city webcams: Mission Inn | Skating Rink


Photos: Riverside's citrus legacy


Two weeks back, we featured an item on the recent unveiling of a downtown statue honoring Riverside citrus pioneer Eliza L. Tibbets.

In the early 1870s, Eliza secured two small navel orange trees from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for test planting in Riverside. Originating as a mutation in Bahia, Brazil, these navel trees took well to Riverside's semi-arid climate, producing a sweet, succulent and seedless navel orange. California -- and in particular, Inland Southern California -- would never be the same.

The unveiling of the statue prompted us to dig through our image bank for photos associated with Riverside's citrus legacy. Of course, it also forced us to go out and take some new photos for items we didn't already have (and update some we did).

Though certainly not a complete collection of images related to Riverside's citrus past (nor does it include images from other local citrus-rich communities, namely Redlands, Corona and Upland), we feel the gallery still manages to show the wide-reaching importance the navel orange played in shaping both Riverside's landscape and its history -- a history that was dramatically changed with the arrival of two seemingly inconspicuous navel orange trees in 1873.

Photo Gallery: Riverside's Citrus Legacy


Sources: "A Colony For California" (Tom Patterson), "Pursuing Eden - Matthew Gage: His Challenges, Conquests and Calamities" (Joan H. Hall), "A Citrus Legacy" (Joan H. Hall), "Adobes, Bungalows, and Mansions of Riverside, California Revisited" (Esther H. Klotz, Joan H. Hall), City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Public Library

Downtown pedestrian mall

Eliza Lovell Tibbets

Dedication plaque

(Patricia P. Ortlieb is
Eliza's great-great granddaughter)

Eliza and Luther Tibbets

State Historic Landmark

Parent Navel
(w/ Eliza's historical marker)

Eliza's marker

Original location of trees
(w/ Luther's historical marker)

Luther's marker

Riverside orange grove

After 14 years of planning, a long-awaited statue honoring Riverside citrus pioneer Eliza Tibbets was unveiled last week in downtown.

Spearheaded by Kathryn Gage (a distant relative of Eliza through marriage) and created by artist/sculptor (and former Corona resident) Guy A. Wilson, the 11-foot statue rises above the outdoor pedestrian mall at Sixth Street near the Mission Inn. Entitled "Sower's Dream," it commemorates Eliza and her role in originating California's highly successful navel orange industry.

The 1,100 pound bronze statue depicts Eliza with outstretched arms and billowing dress. It is meant to portray a young Eliza as opposed to the older "Queen Victoria" Eliza most associate with Mrs. Tibbets' time living in Riverside.

Included on the statue are etchings of navel oranges and a replica of a "Woman's Relief Corps" medal, no doubt a nod to Eliza's women's suffrage activism. Several tiles surrounding the statue include the names of those who helped make it a reality. Planted nearby are two navel orange trees.

The statue honors not only Eliza the navel orange matriarch, but also Eliza the spiritualist, abolitionist and activist. Though quite impressive, our only real complaint is that its homage to Riverside's navel orange is maybe a bit too subtle and not instantly recognizable by casual passers-by. (Holding an orange in her outstretched hands may have easily done the trick.) Regardless, we give the statue a positive thumbs up.

For those not familiar with local history, Eliza (along with husband Luther) was a pioneer in California's multi-million dollar navel orange industry. In fact, if not for Eliza, Riverside -- and California in general -- certainly would have been much different.

In 1873 (or 1875, the exact year is a bit unclear), she secured two small navel orange trees from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for test planting in Riverside (some had been previously -- and again later -- shipped to Florida, where they failed). Originating as a mutation in Bahia, Brazil, these navel trees took well to Riverside's semi-arid climate, producing a sweet, succulent and seedless navel orange. (It has been said that Eliza used dishwater to sustain the original trees during dry periods.)

With the first fruits shown to local residents in 1878, and much more widely in 1879 at Riverside's first formal Citrus Fair, this new citrus variety -- sometimes referred to as the "Riverside Navel" but officially known as the "Washington Navel" -- quickly became the star attraction. Its taste and texture was found to be far superior than the seeded Valencia variety grown in California's coastal areas, including nearby Orange County. (In general, Valencia's are used for juicing while navels are considered much tastier for eating.)

As word of Riverside's new thick-skinned and sun-kissed orange spread, local growers began requesting -- and obtaining -- budstock grafted straight from the Tibbets' two original trees (grafting was required due to the oranges' lack of seeds). As such, these "parent navel" trees eventually propagated California's entire navel orange industry, making them one of the most successful fruit introductions in U.S. history.

By 1882, there were more than half a million citrus trees in California, with nearly half planted in the Riverside area alone. Within a short time, a powerful growing/marketing cooperative (California Fruit Growers Exchange, later known as Sunkist) was born and advances in picking and packaging (FMC Corp.) combined with improvements in shipping (refrigerated rail cars) led to a second California "gold rush" of sorts. Soon, wealthy easterners began flocking to Inland Southern California, buying large tracts of land for groves and building impressive homes. As a result, Riverside was the richest city per capita in the U.S. in 1895.

Today, reminders of the city's citrus legacy are still present, two of which directly credit Eliza and Luther Tibbets. Interestingly, a late fracture in the Tibbets' family ended up creating two distinct historical markers, both with the same planting year of 1873, but each crediting either Eliza or Luther independently for the trees and their eventual success.

At any rate, the most significant of these two reminders is located at the corner of Magnolia and Arlington avenues where one of the two original parent navel orange trees still stands bearing fruit. Over the years, "grafting" budstock from it remained popular enough that the city eventually needed to protect the remaining parent navel by securing it behind a fence. A plaque placed here in 1920 credits Eliza.

The other significant item directly related to the parent navels is a tiny marker located at the corner of Central Avenue and Navel Court, near where the two trees originally stood at the former Tibbets' home (long since paved over). This marker, placed in 1935 by Luther's daughter Minnie Tibbets Mills, credits Luther.

Both parent navel trees were later replanted, one in 1902 at the fenced-off city corner previously mentioned and the other in 1903 (during a visit by President Theodore Roosevelt) to a courtyard inside the Mission Inn, where it died in 1921.

Elsewhere around Riverside are other reminders, including citrus exchange buildings (Arlington Heights / Sunkist | Riverside Navel Growers Assoc.), citrus packinghouses (Sutherland Fruit Co. | E.T. Wall), citrus machinery and shipping facilities, the Gage Canal irrigation system and large swaths of orange groves along Victoria and Dufferin avenues. And of course, there's the California Citrus State Historic Park, which includes a museum with interpretive exhibits, lush picnic areas, walking paths and working citrus groves.

And although several structures, such as the Mission Inn, Riverside County Courthouse and numerous homes, owe their opulence to the once mighty citrus industry, probably the most significant entity stemming from Riverside's citrus legacy is the University of California at Riverside (UCR) campus.

What began in 1907 as the Citrus Experiment Station (at the base* of Mount Rubidoux), eventually transformed into a general campus of the University of California system in 1959 (at the base* of Box Springs Mountain -- 3 miles to the east).

Today, UCR's "Citrus Variety Collection" is among the most extensive of its kind in the world. The campus, home to nearly 20,000 students, has greatly expanded beyond its initial focus of citrus research and plays a major role within Inland Southern California's economy.

And to think, it all began with two, seemingly inconspicuous navel orange trees planted in a fledgling Riverside garden by Eliza Lovell Tibbets.

Photo Gallery: Riverside's Citrus Legacy


Eliza Tibbets
About Eliza
Orange homage

* Courtesy of UC Riverside

Sources: "A Colony For California" (Tom Patterson), City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Public Library, "Riverside's Invisible Past" (Joan H. Hall), Sunkist, WikiPedia.

18th Annual 'Festival of Lights'

Main Street near the Mission Inn

Pedestrian mall ice rink

Pedestrian mall
at Mission Inn Avenue

The 18th Annual Festival of Lights is set to begin Friday, Nov. 26 in downtown Riverside, with the official "switch-on" ceremony taking place just after 6:00 p.m. in front of the Mission Inn. This year's Festival runs from November 26 through January 2, 2011 (excepting Christmas).

Each year, thousands of visitors crowd the areas in and around the Mission Inn and along the downtown pedestrian mall for the festivities, which includes over 3.5 million holiday lights and animated figures, an ice rink, live entertainment, shopping, dining and -- of course -- photos with Santa.

This year, the city is seeking photos for creating what it hopes will be the world's largest holiday card for U.S. troops. The card will be a 20-by-30-foot collage of submitted photos and messages. You can submit your photo/message at the city's 'Festival of Lights' Website. There will also be a both on the pedestrian mall on selected days. Photos must be submitted by December 5th.

As usual, free parking (street and garage) is available after 5 p.m. during the week and all day on the weekends and holidays. Your best bet for easy parking is within five parking garages -- three on Orange Street: Ninth | University | Mission Inn; and two on Market Street: Ninth | University.


Out & About - 08/07/2010

Main Street pedestrian mall
Slideshow: Out & About

This past weekend saw us out and about downtown on both Friday and Saturday.

On Friday evening, downtown was relatively busy as a special screening of "Gone With the Wind" brought a sold-out audience to the newly-restored Fox Performing Arts Center. The showing included appearances from 4 of the 7 surviving cast members at a special gala held before Friday's re-screening.

While downtown, we took an impromptu tour of the Mission Inn, following it up with a bite to eat at one of the hotel's unique eateries. Later, we strolled along the Main Street pedestrian mall, which was alive with other downtown patrons.

Saturday morning found the pedestrian mall and weekly farmer's market busy with both shoppers and walkers alike. A re-opened Simple Simon's helped keep the outdoor dining area filled with folks taking advantage of the mild summer temperatures.

Nearby, we spotted the emergence of the former De Anza Chevrolet behind a recently-removed facade on Market Street (one | two). In the early 1960s, 7 new car dealers downtown -- including De Anza -- came together to build the Riverside Auto Center, which was the first auto center of its kind when it opened in 1965 alongside the 91 Freeway at Adams Street. Today, De Anza Chevrolet, one of the seven original auto center dealers, is known as Singh Chevrolet.

Slideshow: Out & About

Old clock returns to downtown mall

1908 Seth Thomas clock

Earlier this month, the 102-year-old Seth Thomas pedestal clock, which was damaged last year during the refurbishing of the pedestrian mall, made its way back to downtown Riverside. Though the clock itself dates back to 1908, it didn't appear in Riverside until the 1920s when it was planted outside a jeweler's store on Main Street.

The clock's current location near the corner of Main Street and Mission Inn Avenue (near Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf), sits across the mall and about a half-block north from its previous spot near the former Westbrook's/Imperial Hardware building.

We're not certain when the clock was placed in front of Westbrook's. Some say it was moved there from its original spot elsewhere on Main Street. But a postcard from the 1940s indicates it had been in front of Westbrook's for several decades before being damaged last year by a contractor -- who paid for the repair -- and eventually moving to its current location near Mission Inn Avenue.

Interestingly, based upon old photos, it appears the clock had also been moved several feet toward University Avenue and placed a bit closer to the center of the pedestrian mall at some point while located near Westbrook's.


Near Westbrook's
(second clock in distance)
(view full postcard)
Near Westbrook's (prior to mall)
RCC yearbook
(view close-up)
On the Mall
North High School

Former mall location
Current spot
Slight differences

Sources: The Press-Enterprise

Out & About - 12/19/2009

Festive decorations at every corner during downtown Riverside's yearly 'Festival of Lights'
Slideshow: Out & About

On Saturday evening, we spent a couple hours browsing and shopping during the annual 'Festival of Lights' in downtown Riverside, snapping a few photos -- and finding a few nice surprises along the way.

First, it was great to once again see the storefront windows -- decorated and lit up for the holidays -- for the long-shuttered Westbrook's / Imperial Hardware building. We're hoping the windows remain on display following the holidays (possibly for historical/museum displays ... ?).

Second, the newly opened 3rd floor for Mission Galleria offered sweeping views of the pedestrian mall below.

And finally, it was nice to see fresh art sculptures (one | two) along the pedestrian mall near UCR/California Museum of Photography.

We found the newly refurbished pedestrian mall to work quite well with the large crowds, particularly alongside the Mission Inn. The new layout allowed for a larger ice rink and a larger events stage.

The Festival of Lights includes an ice rink, carriage rides, carolers, shopping, food, entertainment -- and Santa Claus. Oh, and of course, the centerpiece is the historic Mission Inn decorated with over 3.5 million lights and hundreds of animated displays.

The event runs daily (excepting Christmas) through January 3.

Slideshow: Out & About


17th annual 'Festival of Lights'


This week marks the beginning of the yearly "Festival of Lights" in downtown Riverside. Every night for 5 weeks between Nov. 27 and Jan. 3 (excepting Christmas), several blocks of the newly refurbished Main Street pedestrian mall come alive for the holidays.

City of Riverside

The centerpiece of the Festival is the historic Mission Inn hotel, which will again be adorned with over 3.5 million holiday lights and hundreds of animated figures.
Along with the lights are an ice rink, carriage rides, carolers, shopping, food, entertainment -- and Santa Claus. Nearby shops and restaurants usually offer extended hours during the festival.

Friday, Nov. 27th is the event's official kick-off, which includes a special "switch on" ceremony and fireworks show that begins just after 6:00 p.m.

Parking for the nightly event is available in 4 municipal parking garages and on nearby streets (with free parking at all locations after 5 p.m. and all day on the weekends/holidays).

What originally began in 1993 as a hotel-only event has since grown to include city sponsorship, spreading to nearby shops and adjacent blocks. It has become one of America's largest holiday light displays.



Out & About - 10/20/2009

Crews work on the new crossing at Mission Inn Avenue as part of the pedestrian mall makeover in downtown Riverside
Slideshow: Out & About

This week found us taking a stroll along downtown's Main Street pedestrian mall during a workday lunch, where we encountered others also taking in the fall-like weather.

Further up, we noticed both the main entrance and several windows on the former Westbrook's / Imperial Hardware store are now on display for the first time in several years. They had been boarded up for at least the past decade, if not longer.

The sidewalk around the building's foundation has been chipped away in preparation for the pedestrian mall's new surface. It appears a new header has also been put into place. Does this mean the building -- which dates back to 1900, but has sat empty since the 1970s -- is finally about to see a new tenant?

Although Imperial's former false front is no match against Westbrook's 1935 art deco facade, we admit to somewhat missing its mid-century starkness (here's a view from 1967), which covered the building's front from about 1964 until 2007. Regardless, we hope the improvements signal life is once again stirring within the building.

Moving on ... the second phase -- between University and Sixth -- of the makeover for 1966-era pedestrian mall* is nearing completion. This week, crews were busy working on the new mall crossing at Mission Inn Avenue. (The first phase, completed earlier this year, took in the mall's southern blocks between University and Tenth.)

Nearby, a crossing for a soon-to-be water feature is now in place while new pavers, ground plantings and lighting are also being completed. We have mixed feelings on the new lighting. By no means terrible, but also not very unique. Certainly not as unique at the original raincross lights. (We're told they're being salvaged by the city -- for what, we do not know. Let's hope they get shipped off to the city museum as opposed to the landfill.)

The pedestrian mall is expected to be completed in time for this year's "Festival of Lights" on which the months-long work has already started.

Slideshow: Out & About

* Courtesy of Ruhnau, Ruhnau & Clarke

Postcard: Main at Ninth streets

Main Street Looking North* - Riverside California

Color Photo by Luis and Virginia Kay / Columbia Wholesale Supply, N. Hollywood, Calif.

Above is a view of Main Street in downtown Riverside looking south* toward Tenth from Ninth. The view, from approximately 1963/64, is just prior to the construction of the Main Street pedestrian mall (a), which opened in 1966 and stretches north from Tenth to Sixth.

At left is Gordon's (here's a different view). According to its sign, Gordon's has been in business since 1905.

Just out of view on the immediate left (adjacent to Gordon's) would be F.W. Woolworth. It opened on the SE corner of Ninth and Main in 1940. We're not sure when the store closed, but according to this 1967 view looking north toward Ninth from Tenth (nearly the opposite view of the postcard), it appears to have remained open at least until the late 1960s (here's a close-up view).

Prior to Woolworth's, the corner was home to the Rowell Hotel, which opened in 1887. In 1902, the Rowell became the Reynolds Hotel upon being purchased by George N. Reynolds who operated a department store directly across Ninth Street in the 3-story Reynolds Building. That building, which later housed Montgomery Ward (1934 - 1966) and Pic 'N Save (b) (until about 1970), was built in 1900. It was demolished in the early 1980s and replaced by a small parking lot. (The site is being used as staging area during the refurbishment of the former Rouse Building into UCR's Culver Center of the Arts.)

Back to the postcard ... hanging above the third car on the right is the black & white "Piano & Organ" sign for Cheney's Music. It opened on Main Street in 1944 where it remained until moving in 1970 to the Tyler Mall (now Galleria at Tyler). Owned by Warren W. Cheney, the store remained in business at the mall until the early 1980s.

A bit farther down on the right can be seen 4001 Main Street (Tenth and Main), which once housed the Security Investment Company (here's a more recent view). Also seen is the crane used during construction of the 8-story Citizen's/Crocker Bank (c). It was downtown's first modern, mid-rise office building when it opened in 1965 (here's a more recent view).

Today, if one were to stand in the same location as the postcard, their view would be blocked by City Hall, which replaced the businesses on both sides of the pedestrian mall (Main Street) between Ninth and Tenth streets in 1975.

For those interested, here's the back of the postcard, which was mailed to W. Medford, Mass in 1967.

* Postcard incorrectly states the view as being toward the north, but in reality, you're looking south
(a) Courtesy of Ruhnau, Ruhnau & Clarke
(b) Courtesy of RPD Remembers
(c) Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce

Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, Los Angeles Times, "Riverside in Postcards" (Steve Lech), "Riverside - 1870-1940" (Steve Lech), "Colony for California" (Tom Patterson)

Work began recently on the final phase of the Main Street Pedestrian Mall renovation in downtown Riverside, continuing the first complete refurbishment of the outdoor mall since its 1966* opening.

Phase two
University block

Phase two
Mission Inn block

The first phase, which wrapped up in the fall, revamped the two blocks (one | two) located between Tenth Street and University Avenue. Also included was a partial reopening of Ninth Street through the mall as well as sidewalk and street improvements on Main Street between Fifth and Sixth streets.

The current phase encompasses the two blocks between University Avenue and Sixth Street. Crews began removing some trees (one | two) and tearing up the walkway for necessary utility upgrades. Unfortunately, a Corona-based contractor also heavily damaged the 100-year-old "Seth Thomas" clock (photo of damaged clock here). Elite Bobcat Service has agreed to pay for the repairs. We only hope such repairs can be done. At the very least, the city should ensure an equally historic replacement is found.

As previously stated, we're a bit unsure how the redo will look in the areas adjacent to the historic Mission Inn, but we do like what we've seen completed thus far. In particular, the look against the backdrop of City Hall is indeed complimentary.

Overall, we like the added decorative touches (one | two). However, we do feel the "folding chair" look of the wall seats is a bit odd (no doubt, partly influenced by anti-skateboard measures). But the adjacent electrical outlets -- handy when using laptops on the Wi-Fi enabled mall -- help make up for the somewhat strange seats.

Our only real complaint is the new look has caused the mall to lose a bit of character. Although the new lights aren't terrible, we're sad to see the unique raincross lamps gone.

The $10 million project is expected to wrap up this summer.

Photo Gallery: Main Street Pedestrian Mall



* Photo courtesy of Ruhnau, Ruhnau, Clarke

Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise

2008 'Festival of Lights'

Festival of Lights

Mission Inn

In case you missed it, the 16th annual Festival of Lights began this past weekend in downtown Riverside. With 3.5 million lights and hundreds of animated figures, the crown jewel of the nightly festival is the historic Mission Inn hotel. As usual, Friday night's "lighting ceremony" incorporated extra festivities, including live music and fireworks.

Also included are an ice skating rink, carriage rides and several vendors and shops along the Main Street Pedestrian Mall. Most stores have extended their hours during the festival (something we'd like to see more of them do at other times during the year).

The festival runs nightly through January 4th (excepting Christmas Day). We suggest parking in one of the two available Orange Street parking garages, particularly if you're visiting Friday, Saturday or Sunday evenings (parking is free after 5 p.m. and all day on the weekends). Another garage is also available off Market Street between Mission Inn and University avenues.

For those looking to make dinner plans (or simply grab a quick bite), several top-notch restaurants and eateries -- including Mario's, Restaurant Omakase, Duane's, Las Campanas, Cafe Sevilla, Old Spaghetti Factory, Simple Simons, Phood on Main, Pacific Stix and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf -- are all within a few blocks.



Out & About - 10/14/2008

Flash: Out & About slideshow

Incorporating the old RIR logo

March Field Air Museum

An original WWI-era plane
traced back to March Field

This past weekend saw us check the status on a few ongoing projects in downtown Riverside, including Regency Tower and Main Street Pedestrian Mall as both projects continue moving along. We also managed to take a nice snapshot overlooking downtown as well as take in two local museums.

First up was a visit to the Riverside International Automotive Museum in Riverside. Located in a business park near Hunter Park, the museum pays homage to the former Riverside International Raceway, which hosted major races on the eastern edge of town from 1957 - 1988. On display are posters, videos and various RIR memorabilia -- including a refrigerator from the driver's lounge. The museum also houses 3 Indy Eagle cars from the track's most prolific racer, Dan Gurney.

But more than just honoring RIR, the museum has a small collection of memorabilia from the former Ontario Motor Speedway (which held races from 1970 to 1980 on land where the new arena now stands). Likewise, several sports cars are on display, ranging from Ferrari and Maserati to Indy cars. It's also a working museum with race car restoration projects in the works.

Photos: Riverside International Raceway



Next was a stop at March Field Air Museum adjacent to I-215 in southeastern Riverside. Located on the western edge of March Air Reserve Base, the museum is comprised of a few hangar-like structures and several outdoor aircraft displays.

An interior exhibit area offers historical displays on March Field -- which celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2008 -- as well as the nation's major wars. Several other displays include the Tuskegee Airmen, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, SAC Commander Gen. Curtis LeMay and the International Combat Camera Association. The museum also includes a short film on the history of March Field -- the oldest Air Force base on the west coast -- and it's involvement within the nation's modern military.

Outside on the museum's flightline are over 50 aircraft, including an SR-71 Blackbird, B-17 Flying Fortress, B-29 Superfortress, B-52D Stratofortress, F-4 Phantom, F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle and KC-135 Stratotanker. Also on display are 4 Soviet MiG planes and a small hanger dedicated to the P-38.

The museum is also a working museum, with several hangers set up for ongoing restoration projects. Future plans at the museum include expansion for more interior exhibit space and a re-working of the exterior flightline.

When visiting March Field Air Museum, be sure to make time for a few solemn moments across the freeway at Riverside National Cemetery, which was the former site of Camp Haan during World War II.


Sept. 2008
Renovation details

Sept. 2008
Fountain improvements
outside City Hall

Sept. 2008
View north toward
University Avenue from Ninth Street

Work continues to move along on the $10 million renovation of the Main Street Pedestrian Mall in downtown Riverside. The project is the first major rehab of the mall, which opened in 1966* spanning the former "Main Street" between Tenth and Sixth streets.

Construction began this past Spring between Tenth Street and University Avenue as well as the sidewalks on Main Street between Sixth and Fifth streets. Completion is expected to be completed by Fall. Work on the remaining two sections (one | two) between University Avenue and Sixth Street will begin after the first of the year with completion not likely until mid-2009.

So far, we like what we see, especially the interlocking pavers, which helps give the newness a rustic feel. Though not 100% complete, the look and feel between Ninth and Tenth streets is clean and crisp (maybe too much so) and even compliments City Hall. However, we're a bit unsure how the style will look in the more historic areas, particularly adjacent to portions of the Mission Inn. Truth be told, this portion of the mall -- with the most mature trees and park-like feel -- is least in need of complete renovation.

Included in the overall project is the reopening of Ninth Street through the mall. As a result, the city uprooted one of the mall's long-standing art fixtures, the Riverside Tripod. Designed by noted artist James Rosati, the sculpture sat alongside City Hall since 1976 before being replanted at the city's recently-built Fire Station No. 5.

In a fitting tribute, the Tripod was rededicated earlier this month as part of Sept. 11th observances. The new location is meant to commemorate both Rosati -- whose famed "Ideogram"** sculpture was destroyed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center -- and Riverside Fire personnel who responded to New York City in the aftermath.



* Photo courtesy of Ruhnau, Ruhnau, Clarke
** Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Sullivan at Bluffton University

Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise

Road Trip: Fresno


This entry kicks off a semi-occasional feature we'll be calling "Road Trip" -- a chance to explore other cities and areas within California, particularly those outside the three major metropolitan regions: Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. Everyone knows these places, but what about the likes of Fresno, Stockton and Bakersfield? The latter three are relatively large cities that in many states would be the largest and most dominant city. But in California, they are but one of at least a dozen cities in excess of 300,000 residents.

Our aim will be to spotlight these lesser-known, mid-major cities. In some cases, we'll toss in a smaller city (such as Visalia) or a larger city essentially hidden within one of the major metropolitan areas (such as Chula Vista). From a basic urban/civic planning perspective, we'll take a somewhat cursory look at their urban form, and in particular, their downtown cores -- if there is one -- and see what's there and what isn't. We'll then compare and contrast them relative to Riverside, looking for what makes them unique -- or not.

Our hope is to gain better appreciation for these somewhat overlooked places and possibly learn a thing or two along the way about how to improve and strengthen our own city.


Road Trip: Fresno

Flash: Road Trip: Fresno slideshow

Flash: Fresno Fashion Fair Mall
(with interior views reminiscent of
The Broadway dept. store in Riverside)

For being a city located at the center of California's dusty, but agriculturally rich "Central Valley," Fresno belies expectations. Many Californian's simply assume the worst and never really give the place a chance, making it a good candidate in which to start this series.

First impression: Fresno is a big city -- 470,000 according to 2007 Census estimates -- that feels somewhat smaller than it is. The downtown core, though not overly large for a city of its size, is a mixture of old and new. And, as with every major California city, Fresno is surrounded by expansive, suburban housing tracts. Thanks to numerous trees lining many major streets, particularly those in the more recent developments and newer commercial areas, Fresno appears much greener than one might expect. Looming in the distance to the east is the Sierra Nevada mountain range, including Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks (with 14,494-foot Mt. Whitney on the backside). Located about an hour to the northeast is Yosemite.

How it's similar: Fresno and Riverside actually share much in common. Both support a major university and are seats of county government with the various civic and cultural institutions inherent therein. Physically, downtown Fresno also contains a classic street grid pattern and a 1960s-era pedestrian mall. Likewise, Fresno's post-war growth has taken on a predominantly suburban form -- partly to the detriment of downtown. Geographically, the metropolitan region is partially hemmed in by mountains. And, as with the majority of California's valleys, summers can get a bit toasty and the air does get somewhat stagnant at times.

How it's different: Unlike Riverside, Fresno is unquestionably the dominant city within the Fresno-Madera metropolitan region. As such, it has its own television market. Fresno's moderate skyline is dominated by mostly older and slightly taller buildings. Though both cities have modern convention centers, the latter also has a mid-sized arena and an adjacent concert hall/civic theater. And although Fresno has a passenger airport with an Air National Guard unit, the city does not have a major military base the likes of March Field near Riverside. Once outside Fresno, the landscape turns into mile upon mile of farmland.

Biggest surprise: Parts of downtown appear to be in a time warp of sorts, with a small, but impressive collection of pre-WWII "Renaissance Revival" styled towers (one | two | three | four). Arguably downtown's most unique aspect, the outdoor Fulton Mall (1964) offers a nice respite from California's car-dominated landscape. Though not overly vibrant, the pedestrian mall has a lot of potential. A recent addition is a minor league baseball stadium located at the mall's southern end. Interestingly, the landscape design of Fresno's Fulton Mall is very similar to the one in downtown Riverside, which opened two years after Fresno's. Both malls contain elements (Fresno | Riverside) designed by landscape architect Garrett Eckbo of Eckbo, Dean, Austin and Williams. One key difference is the amount of public art situated along Fresno's mall, at least double of that found at Riverside's version.

Biggest disappointment: As a predominantly low-rise campus (one | two) with several large parking lots and no overly distinctive buildings, the campus of California State University at Fresno felt more like an overgrown high school. In fact, one can easily drive past the campus without even realizing. However, the university is a major player in local sports and includes a football stadium, a recently built arena/rec center, and separate stadiums for both baseball and softball.

What can Riverside learn? One aspect of Fresno that Riverside can take note of is that city's long-term commitment to the larger civic/regional entities, such as the sports arena, civic theater and even the new minor league baseball stadium. And although Riverside's own pedestrian mall is currently undergoing its first major renovation, the city should keep tabs on Fresno's similarly designed outdoor mall. In particular, Riverside should take note of the amount of public art dotting Fresno's mall.


Out & About - 06/15/2008


The past two weekends saw us at opposite ends of Riverside. Last weekend, we had the chance to take in the reopened Arlington Branch Library. While there, we took a few photos of the nearby Arlington Village commercial area. This weekend, we spent some time downtown checking in on the refurbishing of the Main Street Pedestrian Mall.

Flash: Out & About slideshow

Riverside & Arlington Railway
1962 Interurbans Magazine

Riverside & Arlington Railway
1962 Interurbans Magazine

About 5 miles southwest of downtown Riverside sits Arlington Village. Located at the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Van Buren Boulevard, the village hails from what was originally known as the Town of Arlington. Founded in 1877 by prominent Riversiders S.C. Evans and William Sayward, Arlington was in many ways Riverside's first suburb, with streetcars* running between the two towns. As such, it was included within Riverside's boundaries upon official incorporation in 1883.

By the early 1900s, the area contained a library, fire station, newspaper office, two-story commercial building, local schools, churches and several businesses. The commercial area thrived well into the 1960s, partly on account of being the nearby home to Riverside County General Hospital, a place where it would remain for 100 years before a new county hospital opened in Moreno Valley in 1998.

About a mile south of Arlington Village is the land that sprouted much of Riverside's famous Washington Navel orange groves. Today, the area still includes large swaths of groves thanks in part to the Arlington Heights Greenbelt citrus preserve. It also includes the 377-acre California Citrus State Historic Park -- an actual working citrus grove, museum and park.

Fifty years after the Riverside Freeway and nearly 40 years after the nearby Galleria at Tyler reduced the importance of the area as a major commercial center, Arlington Village is staging a comeback. Recent street and sidewalk improvements and refurbished storefronts have given the neighborhood new life. Besides the newly-expanded library, a recent addition to the village is a large wall mural composed from photographs depicting Magnolia Avenue at Van Buren Boulevard during the 1940s.

With a bit of vision and planning -- and a small residential townhome/condo component -- the village could easily sprout into a nice, semi-urban landscape consisting of more restaurants and shops all within easy walking distance.

Elsewhere in Riverside, work is progressing on the makeover of the Main Street Pedestrian Mall in downtown. New low-lying retaining walls have sprung up on the mall between Ninth Street and University Avenue as has framework for a new fountain. The next phase will include the blocks between University Avenue and Sixth Street. The $10 million project began in March and is expected to be completed in spring 2009

Concurrent work also continues on the old Rouse Building -- the soon-to-be UCR/Culver Center of the Arts -- as well as the reopening of Ninth Street through the mall adjacent to City Hall. Nearby, foundation work is moving along at the Regency Tower site, located at Tenth and Orange streets.

Flash: Out & About slideshow



* Copyright 1962 Interurbans Magazine

Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, "Colony for California" (Tom Patterson), "Arlington" (Georgia Gordon Sercl), Interurbans Magazine

Pedestrian mall renovation begins


Last week saw the beginning of the multi-phase renovation of the Main Street Pedestrian Mall in downtown Riverside. The nearly $10 million dollar project, which is currently underway on two blocks between Tenth Street and University Avenue, is the first overall makeover in the 42-year history of the pedestrian mall. Completion of the 4-block project is expected in mid-2009.

March 2008
View south from University Avenue
toward City Hall

March 2008
View north toward University Avenue
from City Hall

The project includes extensive underground infrastructure improvements that will require re-surfacing of the mall's walkways, many of which have suffered from patchwork fixes over the years. Although such extensive resurfacing will no doubt be a bit of an inconvenience, we think the resurfacing is long-overdue regardless of the need for underground work.

Plans also call for a 5,000 square foot "civic plaza" between University and Mission Inn avenues with an overhead tensile fabric roof providing shade during the summer months. The area would allow for larger gatherings as well as better accommodate the ice rink for the annual Festival of Lights. New benches, lighting, speakers, additional electronic surveillance and better access for the disabled round out the project.

Probably the most controversial aspect of the renovation has been with regards to the landscaping, and in particular, the proposed removal of a number of large, mature trees. Fortunately, the project's landscape architect -- Riverside-based Ian Davidson -- has since revised the number of mature trees being removed. In the end, Davidson says the renovated mall will have more trees than it did prior to the makeover.

Another part of the plan includes the re-opening of Ninth Street through the mall near City Hall. Though we have some reservations about this particular aspect, we're glad the design calls for a smaller, two-lane roadway with limited parking as opposed to a wide, four-lane arterial.

Built in 1966, the mall is one of the few remaining, original "pedestrian malls" developed by cities during the 1960s as a way to help stem the outflow of retail to suburban malls. Although many such malls have since disappeared -- including a similar mall in nearby Burbank -- Riverside's has managed to weather the lean years and is now poised to thrive as a new era begins taking shape downtown.

We're glad to see the pedestrian mall get the much needed upgrades and repairs. But more importantly, we're glad to see the mall still in existence and that a growing number of residents, businesses and visitors alike are beginning to better appreciate this truly unique asset.

Photo Gallery: Main Street Pedestrian Mall


Sources: City of Riverside, Ian Davidson Landscape Architecture, The Press-Enterprise

Out & About - 10/06/2007


Saturday, October 6, 2007 - This past Saturday, if one ventured down to the weekly Farmers Market held on the pedestrian mall in downtown Riverside, they couldn't help but hear the sounds from a multicultural festival just two blocks away.

The 9th Annual "Multicultural Family Village Festival" took place in front of the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, located on Mission Inn Avenue at Orange Street. Sponsored by the city-run museum, the modest festival included music, dance, arts & crafts and food from a number of local community groups.

The event gave us an excuse to revisit a special exhibit inside the Metropolitan Museum itself. The exhibit is the first of a two-part exhibit, "The Mission Inn: Celebrating 30 Years as a National Historic Landmark," which is being shared with the nearby Mission Inn Museum.

Part one -- "Creating a Legacy (1875 - 1955)" -- showcases personal artifacts from the Miller family during the Inn's early days, including paintings, photographs and a few pieces of furniture. Also on display is the original sketch (and U.S. Patent) for the Raincross symbol. The exhibit ends its 3-month run on October 14.

Part two -- "Saving the Community's Heritage (1955 - present)" -- documents the Inn during rough times following the end of the Miller family stewardship, the subsequent ownership changes and selling off of some of the Inn's treasures, the eventual multi-million dollar refurbishment and recent revival. This second exhibit opened last month at the Mission Inn Museum and runs through January 5, 2008.

Admission to both museums is free (though a nominal donation of $2 is gladly accepted).


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