Category: Civic Structures
Government buildings, libraries, educational facilities, public spaces and other civic-oriented landscapes
Recent Entries:

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Old Riverside Foundation
Riverside ReStore

Want to own a piece of Riverside history? Here's your chance!

In cooperation with Habitat for Humanity Riverside, the Old Riverside Foundation is selling recently donated items salvaged from the historic Riverside Fox Theater. The items -- doors, windows and power switches -- were saved during the theater's 3-year, $32 million renovation that was completed in 2010.

We think the doors and windows would make a nice historic art piece for anyone's home or business. They could also be an interesting trellis or accent for any backyard garden. And the power switches would add interesting color to any mantle or wall.

The sale begins Saturday, May 5 at Habitat for Humanity's Riverside ReStore, located at 2180 Iowa Avenue (near Spruce Street). Proceeds will help benefit historic preservation efforts of Old Riverside Foundation as well as support Habitat for Humanity Riverside's home ownership mission.

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Sharing a bit of library love

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Old Riverside Foundation,
Riverside Historical Society

Download a PDF copy

Definitely one of Riverside's best mid-century buildings -- and certainly its most under-appreciated -- the downtown Main Library (a.k.a. Central Library) has spent most of its time suffering from harsh criticism.

In the past few years, however, there has been growing support for the library's mid-century designs.

Most of this support has tended to come from those that know only the "modern" library and never had a chance to visit the classic Carnegie. And now, nearly 50 years after having opened, to these eyes, the "modern" library is indeed a bit historic (just like the 1903 Carnegie was to many in the early 1960s at approximately the same age).

But appreciation has also been growing from all generations once folks become more aware of and better understand the context about some of the library's modernist designs, namely its iconic "dove" screens. To wit, we have the "Did You Know?" informational sheet.


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@1963
Architectural rendering of the Main Library, downtown Riverside
(Moise, Harbach & Hewlett)


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1966
Pacific Telephone book cover

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1967
Riverside National Bank calendar

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@1970
Outdoor sitting area

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@1980
Maturing trees

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2008
Reflecting pools long gone

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2006
Architectural details

After several recent attempts, Riverside officials have now scrapped expensive plans to construct a new downtown library in favor of a more modest renovation of the existing building.

We realize this new directive from the city council may not serve all interests and parties involved, and we do agree a modest renovation/refurbishment is warranted. However, we also admit we're glad to see the focus back to renovation and reuse versus complete demolition. Why? First and foremost, it allows for potential preservation of the building (and most/all of its architectural features). Second, a renovation plan is much less costly (and more likely to get funded/completed).

Definitely one of Riverside's best mid-century buildings -- and certainly its most under-appreciated -- construction of the downtown Main Library (a.k.a. Central Library) was approved by voters following a $1.7 million bond measure in October 1961. After several months of controversy over the location and size of parking lots around the new building, ground was formally broken on June 25, 1963.

Though opened to the public in late 1964, the library itself was officially dedicated on March 21, 1965. Initially praised for its size and modern interior, the new library was also panned by some for its stark and mostly windowless exterior. Moreover, many were bitter over the replacement of the beloved 1903 Carnegie Library, which was demolished in late 1964 around the time the new library opened directly behind it. As such, the "modern" library has spent most of its short life suffering from harsh criticism. (Indeed, the loss of the Carnegie [one* | two*] was a travesty in its own right.)

However, as a prime example of the New Formalism architectural movement, which was popular for public, institutional and financial buildings during the 1960s, the downtown library includes several hallmarks of this mid-century style: rigid box-like appearance, floating pedestal, brick veneer, strong pilasters, large overhang, fanciful canopy and period lighting (one | two | three).

Particularly striking are the building's interwoven "dove" screens (one | two) -- a symbol not likely coincidental considering the advancing Cold War era in which the library was built. As such, we feel any major modification of the dove screens -- or worse, their removal -- in any renovation plan would be a shame and essentially strip the building of its full and meaningful context. (However, we could do without the blue LIBRARY lettering above the entrance, which is not original and looks very tacky.)

Finally, we also realize the downtown library's bold and futuristic architecture stands in stark contrast to its neighbors, the most notable being the nearby Mission Inn. The two buildings are from vastly different eras and indeed are distinctly different. However, we feel it's this very juxtaposition that actually makes both buildings more unique in their own right, bringing out both the best and worst features of each (as good organic architecture should).

All in all, we believe the 1965-era library is one of the best examples of mid-century modern architecture in the Inland region (and maybe even Southern California). And we believe it's worth enhancing and preserving. What do you think?

(Note: The city is currently conducting outreach meetings with interest groups and the general public. As part of the outreach, the city is providing residents and stakeholders the ability to comment via the Downtown Library Rehabilitation Survey. Read the questions and then submit your responses. We urge anyone interested to spend a few minutes to complete the three-question survey.)

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* Riverside Public Library

Sources: City of Riverside, Riverside Public Library, The Press-Enterprise


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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 ThingsToDoInlandEmpire.com, 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


Relocated Marcy Branch Library opens

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2011
New Marcy Branch
6927 Magnolia Avenue

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2011
New Marcy Branch

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2011
New Marcy Branch

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Former Marcy Branch
3723 Central Avenue
(Ruhnau, Ruhnau, Clarke)

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2011
Former Marcy Branch

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2011
Former Marcy Branch

After about three years of planning, renovation and moving, Riverside's Marcy Branch Library has reopened. The new location, near the intersection of Magnolia and Arlington avenues, is about 1 mile from its former spot on Central Avenue near the Riverside Plaza.

The relocated Marcy Branch occupies the bottom floor of an 18,000 sq. ft., two-story building on Magnolia Avenue (with the city's Parks, Recreation and Community Services taking the top floor). The building was built in 1972 to house district offices for the Automobile Club of Southern California. The architect was well-known Riverside architectural firm, Ruhnau, Evans & Steinmann.

The Auto Club remained in the building until 1998 when a new office building opened at 3700 Central Avenue on the site of the former Southern California Gas Co. district headquarters. (Ironically, the new Auto Club building sits directly across the street from the old Marcy Branch library.) Prior to becoming the new Marcy Branch, the former Auto Club building housed offices for Realty Executives (until about 2009).

Completely refurbished to the tune of $7.9 million, the new Marcy Branch comprises 9,000 square feet of space (about double the previous location). The roomier location includes over 30 computer stations, WiFi access, a study room, self-checkout stations -- and indoor restrooms (which were located outside at the old branch).

The expanded children's section contains an environmentally-themed mural, a story-time gathering area, children's computers, and a life-size "interactive tree" that houses a memory game and puppet theater.

Adjacent to the building is a small outdoor area with a bench, grass and shade trees. Directly across the street is tiny, but inviting, Low Park.

Still unclear is the fate of the former Marcy Branch, which originally began in 1951 as the Magnolia Center Branch located at Palm School (now Riverside Adult School).

In 1958, the branch moved into a newly-constructed building on Central Avenue. The branch was renamed Marcy Branch in honor of longtime Riverside resident Charles F. Marcy whose bequest helped provide funding for the building. Its fanciful, mid-century design by noted Riverside architect Herman O. Ruhnau (of Ruhnau, Evans & Steinmann) includes elements of post and beam construction that was popular during the 1950s and 1960s.

At least one proposal calls for the nearby Lucky Greek fast food restaurant -- impacted by the Magnolia Avenue railroad underpass project -- to take up residence in the old Central Avenue library building.

Reuse plans may have stalled recently, but whatever the outcome, we hope a viable reuse -- one that doesn't overly damage the original character of the mid-century building -- can be found for the old Marcy Branch.

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2011
Signage
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2011
Environmental mural
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2011
Computer stations


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2011
Ceiling
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2011
Story time
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2011
Navel mural
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2011
View toward Low Park


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2011
Former Marcy
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2011
Former Marcy
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2011
Former Marcy
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2011
Former Marcy

B&W photo of Marcy Library courtesy of Ruhnau, Ruhnau, Clarke

Sources: The Press-Enterprise, City of Riverside, Riverside Public Library


Postcard: Downtown civic buildings

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Late 1950s
Top: Carnegie Library and Riverside County Courthouse
Bottom: Municipal Auditorium and U.S. Post Office


We thought we'd start the new year off with an old postcard showing a few of downtown Riverside's civic buildings.

Dating from the late 1950s / early 1960s, the images show the 1903 Carnegie Library, the 1903 Riverside County Courthouse, the 1927 Municipal Auditorium, and the 1939 U.S. Post Office. Three of the four buildings remain standing today (the Carnegie Library met the wrecking ball in 1964).

At least one of the photos (and maybe all) were taken by Max Mahon, whose images of downtown Riverside from that era have been used on several postcards distributed by Columbia Wholesale Supply.

Mailed from Riverside in December 1962, the personal note on the back of the postcard indicates it was sent to a locale of cold and bitter weather, which reminds us how lucky we are to reside in sunny Southern California (especially during those mild January days of 76 degrees and bright blue skies we often have):

Glad to hear you (have?) (gone?) into the house. Weather out here is nice and cool but no 12 (degrees) below thank goodness. Hope you are feeling fine and have a nice Christmas.

In the coming year, we're planning to continue our efforts at spotlighting Riverside's history, with more postcards, images and tidbits from the past. In particular, we're hoping to gather more from the post-World War II era of Riverside (which are surprisingly difficult to track down). So if you have suggestions -- and even better, images -- be sure to send them to us!

Postcard courtesy of Columbia Wholesale Supply, North Hollywood, California

Sources: "Riverside - 1870-1940" (Steve Lech)


Bookshelf: Riverside's Invisible Past

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Riverside's Invisible Past
(Riverside Museum Press)

The latest book documenting Riverside's history has just hit the bookshelves. Written by fourth-generation resident of Riverside Joan H. Hall, "Riverside's Invisible Past" is the latest in several local history books by Joan, many of which are must-haves.

The 192-page book is chock full of interesting and informative histories surrounding 52 structures and sites from Riverside's past. Among the topics are long-gone historic homes, Riverside's Chinatown, the plunge and zoo at Fairmount Park, the classic Southern Sierras/California Electric headquarters and a demolished Spanish-Mission style mortuary designed by noted architect Robert L. Spurgeon.

Each narrative is illustrated with one or more photos, providing visual texture to the histories. The majority of the images come from the archives of the Riverside Metropolitan Museum and that of the author herself, including several old advertisements. Also in the book are a number of photos from the rich -- and not often seen -- Special Collections at UC Riverside.

One interesting tidbit found at the back of Joan's book was an unexpected discovery involving a church bell from Riverside's First Methodist Church. After changing owners and locations at least two times between 1882 and 1906, Joan says the "wayward bell" was eventually "ignored and forgotten" atop a now demolished downtown fire station. Forgotten, that is, until 100 years later when the bell was re-discovered atop Mount Rubidoux by Glenn Wenzel (author of "Anecdotes on Mount Rubidoux and Frank A. Miller, Her Promoter"). As Joan put it, serendipity indeed.

Joan has long been involved with local history, serving on the board of several local organizations, including the Riverside Museum Associates, which produced the book via its Riverside Museum Press. She will be signing copies of "Riverside's Invisible Past" at several locations in the month of December. So be sure to catch up with her at any one of the following dates:

  • Riverside Metropolitan Museum: Dec. 5 & 19 -- Noon to 4 p.m.
  • Barnes & Noble, Riverside: Dec. 11 -- 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Heritage House, Riverside: Dec. 12 -- Noon to 4 p.m.
  • Mission Inn Gift Shop: Dec 18 -- 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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3633 Market Street - De Anza Chevrolet

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2010
3633 Market Street

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2009
3633 Market Street

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Forthcoming parking garage

While driving down Market Street last month, we stumbled upon a bit of local history. Standing alongside downtown's Fox Performing Arts Center was an uncovered facade revealing what once was the former home of long-time Riverside car dealer De Anza Chevrolet (one | two). City permits indicate the building (and its adjacent twin) housed a number of businesses over the years, including automotive, printing and antiques. A 1924 building permit gave the two buildings an estimated value of $35,000.

Currently, the buildings are undergoing demolition as part of the next phase in the Fox Performing Arts Center development. This past week, workers began dismantling the interiors of the twin buildings. Their facades are being secured (one | two) for use as an arcade that will partially shield sidewalks and a new outdoor plaza from the street. Once completed, the project will include a 400-space parking garage, small "black box" theater and a few commercial spaces.

Back to De Anza Chevrolet ... we're not exactly sure when the dealer opened shop within the Market Street building, but city permits show them at the location by the late 1940s. In the early 1960s, however, 7 new car dealers downtown -- including De Anza -- came together to build the Riverside Auto Center. When it opened alongside the 91 Freeway at Adams Street in 1965, this new "auto center" was the first of its kind in the U.S., garnering attention even from Detroit's automakers. Though it remains today, De Anza Chevrolet is now known as Singh Chevrolet.

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2009
3633 Market
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2010
3633 Market
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2010
3633 Market
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2010
3633 Market
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2010
3633 Market


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2010
View south
from Sixth Street
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2009
3605 Market
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2009
3605 Market
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2010
3633 / 3605
Market


Sources: City of Riverside, Riverside Auto Dealers Association


Inside the Fox Performing Arts Center

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2010
Main lobby

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2010
Balcony

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Flash: Fox: May 2007 - Jan. 2010

Crowds flocked to the new Fox Performing Arts Center in downtown Riverside this past weekend to catch an inside look at the newly-renovated facility following a 3-year, $32 million renovation.

Friday night was the grand opening, fund-raising gala while Saturday and Sunday were open house days. Judging by the looks on the faces of those who attended, no one walked away disappointed. This coming weekend will be the center's first official event -- two nights of Sheryl Crow.

Make no mistake, this was an extensive -- and expensive -- top-to-bottom, inside-and-out renovation. No detail was left undone. And as a result, the Fox is now a first-class music and Broadway-caliber venue. And one that Riverside -- and Inland Southern California as a whole -- can indeed be proud of.

So get out there and enjoy the new Fox.

Flash: Fox: May 2007 - Jan. 2010

Update: A recent entry on the LA Times "Culture Monster" blog digs into some of the renovation's details: A Riverside movie palace is reborn (Jan. 26)

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2010
Box office
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2010
Main lobby
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2010
Balcony
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2010
Back stage


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2010
Lobby
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2010
Theater
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2010
Upper lobby
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2010
Ceiling



Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise


Get into the Fox

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After nearly 3 years of renovation -- and several years of planning -- downtown Riverside's Fox Theater is ready to make its debut as the Fox Performing Arts Center.

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2010
Fox Performing Arts Center

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1930s
Fox Riverside

Located at the intersection of Mission Inn Avenue and Market Street, the 1,642-seat Fox Center is the crown jewel of Riverside's 5-year, $1.6 billion "renaissance" public works plan. At just over $32 million, the complete renovation -- including Broadway-caliber staging -- of the 1929-era Fox is also one of the most expensive projects in the 5-year plan, which began in late 2006.

Friday evening Jan. 15 marks the official opening of the new center with the "Fox Foundation Inaugural Gala," a $150-ticket special event intended to show off the Fox as well as begin the process of establishing a community endowment to assist in maintaining and operating the new performance center.

(For those unable to attend the gala, free tours are scheduled for the weekend of Jan. 16-17.)

Update

Related

Previous

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2010
From Mission Inn Avenue
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2010
Opening Gala
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2010
Sheryl Crow
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2010
Exterior details


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2010
Along Mission Inn Avenue
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2010
Main entry
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2010
Main entry
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2010
Exterior details



Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise


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.

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2009
Phase two
University block

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2009
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


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* Photo courtesy of Ruhnau, Ruhnau, Clarke

Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise


Riding the rails at Hunter Hobby Park

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Last Sunday, we had the chance to "ride the rails" at Hunter Hobby Park, one of Riverside's most unique attractions.

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2008
Hunter Hobby Park

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2008
7 1/2 gauge steam trains

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2008
Kids particularly enjoy the trains

Located in northeast Riverside, the 40-acre park began life in the late 1950s as an adjunct "backyard" of sorts to local engineer -- and steam train enthusiast -- Joseph L. Hunter, who laid track down for a personal, small gauge steam engine. The track, which was initially 4,300 feet in length, soon began attracting other train enthusiasts.

Following the 1965 death of Joseph -- who, along with his brother Edwin, built Hunter Engineering, a pioneer of several key, industry-leading patents in the manufacturing of aluminum products -- the park was donated to the city of Riverside. Not being experts in the area of steam engines, the city set up a partnership with local train enthusiasts -- led by Dr. John Creighton of Riverside -- to maintain the system, while the city maintained the park.

Formed in 1966, this all-volunteer group -- Riverside Live Steamers -- immediately began operating, maintaining and expanding the facilities. The club also started providing free rides on selected days each month (currently, the trains operate on the 2nd and 4th Sundays each month).

Today, with a track length of approx. 1 1/2 miles consisting of several switchable configurations, the club includes both personal- and city-owned, 7 1/2 gauge (1/8-sized) engines, with the overriding requirement being "steam-only." Recently, the club built a new "car barn" to augment an already impressive workshop facility.

On the drawing boards -- as part of the city's Riverside Renaissance Initiative -- are several major park improvements, including a new boarding station, train themed playground and a lake for remote-controlled boats. New restrooms, picnic facilities, a concession stand, expanded parking, tennis and basketball courts and improvements to the nearby ball fields are also part of the plan.

So, if you have a couple hours free on an upcoming "run day" Sunday, take a trip to one of the area's most unique attractions for a bit of railroading.

Related

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2008
Steam only
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2008
Leaving the station
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2008
Passenger cars
riv-2008c-park-hunter-029-400.jpg
2008
Caboose


rls-1960-0001ca-600.jpg
@1960
Jim Keith
(w/ one of J.L. Hunter's
original workshops
in background)*
rls-1973-0002ca-600.jpg
@1973
Carl Allen
(w/ view of
Columbia/Iowa
in background)*
rls-0003ca-600.jpg
@early 1980s
Barney Root and
John Stroud (standing)
(w/ Columbia Ave.
in background)*


* B&W photos courtesy of Riverside Live Steamers

Sources: Riverside Live Steamers, City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce


About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Civic Structures category.

City News is the previous category.

Historic is the next category.

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