Mission Inn Catacombs vs Tunnels
Just wanted to clarify the difference between the two. Getting a little bit tired of hearing the 2 terms intermingled.
The Catacombs are under the Mission Inn Hotel. Some tunnels are under the hotel, Annex and elsewhere around the downtown Riverside area. This segment will be on the Catacombs.
My expertise on the subject is limited to the time I worked at the Mission Inn (in house security) from 1982 to 1985 when the Inn was closed for restoration. I also worked there for a short time after the Inn was closed. My source of information is from actually walking or crawling in some of the tunnels and walking through the Catacombs.
A short time after I was hired, the Director of Security challenged all of the security officers to bring him back information on the Inn he did not know about. He told us that he grew up in Riverside as a child and used to play in and around the Mission Inn. We were given a timeline of about a month to find something. A couple of areas we posted off limits to us due to the possibility of asbestos. But the rest of the Inn property was fair game. Some of the stuff we found opened his eyes, and a couple areas received added security in the form of a concrete brick wall or alarm devices.
The Catacombs are located at basement and sub-basement level beneath the southern half of the Inn. Elsewhere on this website you will find pre-1985 floor plans. Looking at the basement floorplans you will see an area labeled as Catacombs. The little squares in the layout are support columns. From that first room you can travel south to the walkway that parallels Orange St. and turn left or right. Turning left takes you through a walkway that contained some of the pipes for the large musical organ in the corner of the music room as well as an access to work on the organ. That walkway ended at a door that took you to the rear of the Glenwood Tavern. Turning right took you through a walkway heading west. At different points the walkway opens to a display area then vacant. Along the way there were stairways heading up to rooms on the southwest corner of the hotel like the Presidential Lounge and apartment number 7. The walkway makes a series of 90 degree turns, and once again you end up in that original room with the columns. A little bit eerie the first time you go down there. The ventilation system down there was natural venting. Air from street level flowed into the walkways. Lighting came in the form of stained glass windows at the top of various spots along the walkway. On the outside of the building, you see pretty stained glass windows in unusual places.
When walking along the sidewalk on the south side of the Inn you will see a planter full of beautiful flowers. There you are standing above the Catacombs. When I worked there, nothing was in the walkways other than the remnants of manikins that once displayed various figures. So called mummies in someone’s eyes.
My understanding is at one time parties were held down there, there was a speakeasy down there during prohibition (source of this info was a prominent figure from UCR), as well a museum displaying various art, artifacts and other items gathered all over the world by Frank Miller, the keeper of the Inn.
Looking at that same basement floorplans you will see a set of parallel lines running from the Catacomb room running west toward Mission Inn Ave. Even makes a slight jog during its length. This is a tunnel, it is a crawl tunnel that lets maintenance personnel gain access to plumbing and various other components to the rooms above.
Either Frank Miller or one of his employees came up with the concept of don’t bury pipes, just run a tunnel next to them in case you have to go back and work on them. Several places in the Inn you would enter a maintenance tunnel with a rack/shelf on one side. Top item on the shelf was electrical, followed by water, steam lines and bottom rung with sewer lines. I was told the vacant spaces on the rack held gas lines at one time.
At one time in the history of Riverside, the Mission Inn had the only steam plant in town. The steam plant was/is located in the Annex. The Annex is a 2 story building with basements directly across 6th Street to the east and south of Main St. so various buildings in downtown Riverside were customers. Probably using the same rack/shelving system in a tunnel to access that customer.
In my time at the Inn, the City of Riverside did not have an documents or records of the tunnels around the Inn or the location of the Catacombs. Officially wise that I know of. Officially wise is an interesting way to put things huh. I remember on 2 separate occasions when a city contractor was working along the streets bordering the inn with construction and earthmoving equipment. One of the times new fiber optic wires were being routed to the General Telephone building down the road. Lines were drawn on Orange St and across the sidewalk above the Catacombs to dig up and lay in new lines.
The city map they had in their possession did not show anything other than sidewalk on the south side of the Inn. It showed utilities and city electrical pipes as well as flood control etc.... I immediately tracked down the foreman before they started cutting up the sidewalk. When I explained to the foreman they could not cut where they had marked. He showed me the plans and said something like I was crazy. He knows there are no Catacombs under the Inn.
I contacted my supervisor for permission and then took the foreman down to the walkway parallel to Orange St. and showed him where they were going to dig. The project ended up being delayed a couple of weeks. An engineer from the City of Riverside demanded access to the so called Catacombs. Once he and a few other "Officials" got the tour. Plans were changed and routed along the curb line of Orange St. During that excavation project, we found out some of the curbing along Orange St was carved granite, not concrete. Fun Times.