Founded in 1870 by John North and a group of Easterners who wished to establish
a colony dedicated to furthering education and culture, Riverside was
built on land that was once a Spanish Rancho. Investors from England
and Canada transplanted traditions and activities adopted by prosperous
citizens: the first golf course, Victoria Country Club, and polo
field in Southern California were built in Riverside.
The first Orange trees were planted in 1871, but the citrus industry
Riverside is famous for began two years later when Eliza Tibbets
received two Brazilian navel orange trees sent to her by a friend at
the Department of Agriculture in Washington. The trees thrived in the
Southern California climate and the navel orange industry grew rapidly.
Within a few years, the successful cultivation of the newly discovered navel
orange led to a California Gold Rush of a different kind: the
establishment of the citrus industry, which is commemorated in the
landscapes and exhibits of the California Citrus State Historic Park
and the restored packing houses in the Downtown’s Marketplace district.
By 1882, there were more more than half a million citrus trees in
California, almost half of which were in Riverside. The development of
refrigerated railroad cars and innovative irrigation systems
established Riverside as the wealthiest city per capita by 1895.
As the city prospered, a small guest hotel designed in the popular Mission
Revival style grew to become the world famous Mission Inn, favored by
presidents, royalty and movie stars. Postcards of lush orange groves,
swimming pools. and magnificent homes have attracted vacationers and
entrepreneurs throughout the years. Many relocated to the warm, dry
climate for reasons of health and to escape Eastern winters. Victoria
Avenue with its landmark homes serves as a reminder of European
investors who settled here.
Riverside’s citizens are proud of the city’s unique character born from a tradition
of careful planning, from its carefully laid out historic Mile Square
to its 1924 Civic Center designed by the same planner responsible for
San Francisco’s, Charles Cheney. Through the City’s Office of Historic
Preservation, it is committed to preserving the past as a firm
foundation for the future. Over 100 City Landmarks, 20 National
Register Sites and 2 National Landmarks have been designated by the
City Council, all offering enjoyment and education to city residents
Riverside is fortunate to have a wealth of sites and buildings that provide a
link to the city’s past and a strong sense of place. This is the result
of the hard work and careful planning of the city’s Historic
Preservation Program. Created by the City Council in 1969, it
identifies and advances the preservation of Riverside’s historic
neighborhoods, and civic and commercial resources. Examples include the
Mission Inn, the Chinatown site, the National Packing House, Citrus
Experiment Station and engineering feats like the Gage Canal. Many of
these landmarks are found in the Downtown’s Mission Inn Historic
District. California’s Mission Revival style, born in Riverside, can be
seen throughout the City, most notably in the Mission Inn, the
Municipal Auditorium, First Church of Christ Scientist, and the Fox
Theater, home of the Riverside Film Festival.