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The Old Franciscan Missions Of California By George Wharton James Characters: 6249

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

It is an incontrovertible fact that no great idea ever rests in its own accomplishment. There are offshoots from it, ideas generated in other minds entirely different from the original, yet dependent upon it for life. For instance, which of the Mission fathers had the faintest conception that in erecting their structures under the adverse conditions then existing in California, they were practically originating a new style of architecture; or that in making their crude and simple chairs, benches and tables they were starting a revolution in furniture making; or that in caring for and entertaining the few travelers who happened to pass over El Camino Real they were to suggest a name, an architectural style, a method of management for the most unique, and in many respects the most attractive hotel in the world. For such indeed is the Glenwood Mission Inn, at Riverside, California, at this present time.

This inn is an honest and just tribute to the influence of the Old Mission Fathers of California, as necessary to a complete understanding of the far-reaching power of their work as is El Camino Real, the Mission Play, or the Mission Style of architecture. After listening to lectures on the work of the Franciscan padres and visiting the Missions themselves, its owners, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Miller, humanely interested in the welfare of the Mission Indians, collectors of the handicrafts of these artistic aborigines, and students of what history tells us of them, began, some twenty-five years ago, to realize that in the Mission idea was an ideal for a modern hotel. Slowly the suggestion grew, and as they discussed it with those whose knowledge enabled them to appreciate it, the clearer was it formulated, until some ten or a dozen years ago time seemed ripe for its realization. Arthur B. Benton, one of the leading architects of Southern California, formulated plans, and the hotel was erected. Its architecture conforms remarkably to that of the Missions. On Seventh Street are the arched corridors of San Fernando, San Juan Capistrano, San Miguel and San Antonio de Padua; inside is an extensive patio and the automobiles stop close to the Campanile reproducing the curved pediments of San Gabriel. On the Sixth Street side is the fachada of Santa Barbara Mission, and over the corner of Sixth and Orange Streets is the imposing dome of San Carlos Borromeo in the Carmelo Valley, flanked by buttresses of solid concrete, copies of those of San Gabriel.

The walls throughout are massive and unbroken by any other lines than those of doors, windows and eaves, and the roofs are covered with red tiles. In the Bell Tower a fine chime of bells is placed the playing of which at noon and sunset recalls the matins and vespers of the Mission days.

Within the building, the old Mission atmosphere is wonderfully preserved. In the Cloister Music Room the windows are of rare and exquisite stained glass, showing St. Cecilia, the seats are cathedral stalls of carved oak; the rafters are replicas of the wooden beams of San Miguel, and the balcony is copied from the chancel rail of the same Mission.

Mission sconces, candelabra, paintings, banners, etc., add to the effect, while the floor is made in squares of oak with mahogany parquetry to remind the visitor of the square tile pavements found in several of the old Missions.

Daily--three times--music is called forth from the cathedral organ and harp, and one may hear music of every type, from the solemn, stately harmonies of the German choral, the crashing thunders of Bach's fugues and Passion music, to the light oratorios, and duets and solos of Pergolesi.

By the side of the Music Room is the Cloistered Walk, divided into sections, in each of which some distinctive epoch or feature of Mission history is represented by mural paintings by modern artists of skill and power. The floor is paved with tiles from one of the abandoned Missions.





Beyond is the Refectorio, or dining-room of an ancient Mission, containing a collection of kitchen and dining utensils, some of them from Moorish times. It has a stone ceiling, groined arches, and harvest festival windows, which also represent varied characters, scenes, industries and recreations connected with old Mission life.

Three other special features of the Mission Inn are its wonderful collection of crosses, of bells, and the Ford paintings. Any one of these would grace the halls of a national collection of rare and valuable antiques. Of the crosses it can truthfully be said that they form the largest and most varied collection in the world, and the bells have been the subject of several articles in leading magazines.

The Ford paintings are a complete representation of all the Missions and were made by Henry Chapman Ford, of Santa Barbara, mainly during the years 1880-1881, though some of them are dated as early as 1875.

The Glenwood Mission Inn proved so popular that in the summer and fall of 1913 two new wings were added, surrounding a Spanish Court. This Court has cloisters on two sides and cloistered galleries above, and is covered with Spanish tile, as it is used for an open air dining-room. One of the new wings, a room 100 feet long by 30 feet wide, and three stories high, with coffered ceiling, is a Spanish Art Gallery. Here are displayed old Spanish pictures and tapestries, many of which were collected by Mr. Miller personally on his European and Mexican trips.

At the same time the dining-room was enlarged by more than half its former capacity, one side of it looking out through large French windows on the cloisters and the court itself. This necessitated the enlargement of the kitchen which is now thrown open to the observation of the guests whenever desired.

Taking it all in all, the Glenwood Mission Inn is not only a unique and delightful hostelry, but a wonderful manifestation of the power of the Franciscan friars to impress their spirit and life upon the commercial age of a later and more material civilization.

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