Exploring Riverside’s Rich American History

Offering easy access to the glamour of Los Angeles, the natural beauty of the Santa Ana Mountains, and the historically significant area missions, Riverside, California is a truly exceptional place to call home. With two dozen nationally registered historic sites and 100 local landmarks, the area truly celebrates its roots along with its growing future.


Riverside Attractions

For visitors and residents alike, Riverside offers a laid-back atmosphere that feels worlds away from the big-city lifestyle of the Los Angeles metro area. However, it is only sixty miles away, making it a relatively easy commute in Southern California terms.


If you want to familiarize yourself with this Inland Empire city, start with the city’s many historical sites and cultural venues. Here you’ll find historically significant public buildings and homes dating from the beginning of the city’s founding to green spaces and even historically significant plants and trees, holdovers from the city’s past as a center of agriculture.


Riverside CA Art Museum

Featuring a variety of permanent and rotating exhibits, educational programs and special events, the Riverside Art Museum (RAM) is a vibrant cultural institution that focuses on art and artists inspired by the area.


The museum is housed in a Mediterranean style building dating from the early 20th century and designed by Julia Morgan who originally designed it as a YWCA building. The pioneering female an unusual figure at the time also designed William Randolph Hearst’s iconic San Simeon estate.


In addition, the museum is in the development process for a 2021 opening of the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture, and Industry. This adjunct space, nicknamed “The Cheech,” will be based on the collection of actor Cheech Marin, who has developed the finest collection of Chicano art in the country.


Mission Inn

Located in downtown Riverside and occupying an entire city block, the Mission Inn dates from its opening in 1876 and is the largest Mission Revival-style building in the United States. As the Inland Empire’s only AAA Four Diamond hotel, the Mission Inn offers a luxurious and opulent setting for vacations and local events.


The Inn has provided the backdrop for several films, including Nixon, Man in the Iron Mask, and older films dating back to the beginning of the motion picture industry. Its proximity to Hollywood has meant a host of Tinseltown visitors, including Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Tom Hanks, and Barbra Streisand.


As one of the most iconic West Coast hotels, The Inn has also served as a popular stop for politicians, including Presidents Taft, Hoover, Nixon, Reagan, and George W. Bush. Other notable guests have included Booker T. Washington, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, and Helen Keller.


Riverside Citrus Farms

Like much of the area, Riverside’s wealth and development was built on a foundation of citrus farms. If you’re looking for insight into this part of the area’s past, visit the California Citrus State Historic Park. Here you’ll enjoy guided grove tours and learn more about how citrus became the King of Southern California agricultural development. Want more? Experience a citrus tasting when you visit Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.


The park’s groves are maintained by Gless Ranch, a local citrus farm that cultivates grapefruit, tangerines, limes, lemons, dates, avocados, and figs at their sites in Riverside and the surrounding area. The Ranch also farms the orange trees which line Victoria Avenue, as well as their own, original groves.


Historic Riverside Landmarks

With more than 100 historically significant buildings and sites, Riverside offers exceptional sights around every corner. Here are some of the most important local landmarks:

  • Magnolia United Presbyterian Church (1881), a Gothic Revival building and the oldest church in Riverside.
  • Union Pacific Depot (1904), Mission Revival style train depot
  • Riverside Municipal Museum (1912), Neo-Classical with elements of Mission Revival
  • S.C. Evans Residence (1874), adobe house constructed by local Indians using natural materials and period-specific construction techniques
  • Benedict Castle (1921 and 1931 two-stage construction), Medieval-Spanish style with Moorish influences
  • Sherman Indian Museum (1901), the last of the Mission-Revival style buildings that comprised the Sherman Institute, a federal Indian school
  • Fox Theater (1929), Spanish Colonial Revival-style theater that hosted the first public showing of Gone With the Wind as well as live performances by classic stars like Judy Garland.


Thinking of building a new home in Riverside, California? You’ll find so much to love in a local Pulte community. With unparalleled style and amenities, you and your family can create your own piece of Riverside history here.



Contributed to Your Home blog by Christy Murdock Edgar

Looking for more tips, ideas or inspiration? Return Home here.

Published 11.13.19

Related Posts

Choosing a Home Builder in Riverside

How do you decide which are the best Riverside homebuilders? Read on to discover the home building process, building costs, & our top tips for new construction.

Home Builders Guide to Southern California

Looking for the best home builders in Riverside, Los Angeles, or Orange County? Read this guide to discover what to look for to make sure you pick the best one.

Best Places in California to Build a New Home

Find out about some of the best cities in California for building a new home and living your California lifestyle.