Riverside History

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The Santa Ana River Valley was originally inhabited by the Cahuilla and Serrano Indians, descendants of whom still reside in the County. In 1774, Captain Juan Bautista de Anza with a band of 34 Spanish soldiers, left Tubac, Arizona, looking for a land route to the riches of California. They camped on the bank of the River, near the present site of the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge, where the Cahuilla had a village named Jurupa. They did indeed establish a route from Tubac to Monterey, "he Anza Trail," which played a crucial role in the colonization of California.

In the early 1800's, California became the property of the nation of Mexico. A huge land grant went to Juan Bandini, a prominent social and political figure and a citizen of the new Mexican nation. After California became part of the United States in 1850, a part of the grant was sold to Louis Robidoux (later spelled Rubidoux), a Frenchman born in Spain who became an American citizen.

In 1870, John W. North and Dr. James P. Greves from the east, formed a partnership with plans to begin a colony. They purchased land and laid out a mile square townsite. The town was first named Jurupa, but was changed to Riverside in 1871. October 11, 1883 was the day of incorporation.

In the heart of downtown Mile Square stands the historic Mission Inn Hotel, renowned for its Spanish Mission type architecture, that has the unique art treasures collected by its founder-builder, Frank Miller. Beautiful stained glass windows and the St. Francis Chapel with its valuable gold altar were brought intact from the interior of Mexico. The famous facility is fully restored and welcomes guests as a first-class hotel and major tourist attraction.

Riverside boasts a number of firsts. Mt. Rubidoux is the site of the first outdoor interdenominational Easter Sunrise service, celebrated annually. The navel orange industry in California was established in Riverside in 1875 with the planting of several experimental orange trees shipped from Brazil. The "Parent Navel Orange Tree," from which all of the navel oranges in California's multi-million dollar citrus industry descended, still flourishes in a park in the center of the city. Riverside also had the first polo field and the first golf course in Southern California, and the first junior college in the state. Magnolia and Victoria avenues were among the earliest tree-lined boulevards in California.

The Raincross is the official city symbol. It was created in 1907 by Frank A. Miller, founder of the Mission Inn, and his architect, Arthur B. Benton. They were intent on giving Riverside a unique image. Models for the Raincross logo were a mission bell, of Fr. Junipero Serra, set in a frame and a double armed cross, an ancient symbol for rain revered by the Navajo. The design has been used on street light standards, city flag, and many other items.

The city has long taken pride in the vast number of trees lining its streets and avenues - many are rare and unusual. The city maintains approximately 96,000 of these, prompting the awarding of the Tree City, USA Award. This beautiful scenery and the mild climate have made Riverside a popular tourist area.

Gracious living has been a valued tradition and many neighborhoods retain the character and charm of the past. There are homes built in the Victorian style, the mission revival style popular after the turn of the century, rambling ranch-style homes, and the latest contemporary designs. There are quality apartments and condominium developments, allowing a wide range of choice for everyone. Nearly every religious denomination is represented in Riverside, reflecting strong ties to its spiritual heritage. There are 95 city landmarks, including public buildings, churches, parks and houses.

From the earliest days, education has been of greatest importance with two school districts serving the city. High standards and the employment of fine teachers are hallmarks. There are four institutions of higher education providing rich cultural fare for all residents - plays, music recitals, art and dance presentations. Riverside is justly proud of the Riverside County Philharmonic which performs in the historic Riverside Municipal Auditorium from November to May each year.

Other local groups include the Riverside Ballet Theatre, Riverside Chorale and the Riverside Children's Theatre. The Central Library provides four branches conveniently located throughout the city. Excellent opportunities abound for business and pleasure. Riverside provides a great place to live, work and raise a family. The warm weather contributes to the popularity of water sports or basking in the sun. Snow is only a short distance away from November through May.

The City, and surrounding area, is an important commercial, industrial, educational and cultural center. March Air Force Base has played a significant role in the local economy, even though it is now closed as an active base. Industry has now surpassed agriculture in economic importance, and the hospitable spirit of early California is still in abundance.

Courtesy of the Press Enterprise.

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