3801 Market Street – Hotel Holyrood/Plaza

One of downtown Riverside’s oldest buildings dating from the late 1800s will soon disappear as a plan for an arts school for Riverside Community College District moves forward.

2010 – Southwest corner of Market and University (Bing Maps)

Located at the southwest corner of Market Street and University Avenue, the building in question was originally built as a sanitarium by Dr. Clark Whittier, a wealthy Canadian who bought what was then a muddy marsh in 1881. Bounded by Market, Chestnut, Eighth (University) and Tenth streets, the unimproved land had been designated for public use following the removal of similar plans on land bounded by Market, Main, Seventh (Mission Inn) and Eighth (University) streets.

Whittier cleaned up and improved the land, creating the planned public park (which later became known as White Park). In exchange, Whittier was granted building rights on portions along Eighth (University) and Tenth streets, with the southwest corner of Eighth and Market becoming the location for his sanitarium in 1884. (A street separating the sanitarium site from White Park still bears Whittier’s name to this day.)

Originally referred to as Park House, it appears Whittier’s plan for a health spa/sanitarium never fully materialized as he soon allowed Frank Miller, then of the Glenwood Hotel (pre-Mission Inn era), to begin leasing out its 20 rooms and five large bathrooms. (It’s also likely during Miller’s managing of the building that its name was changed to Park Hotel, as is seen in at least one early photo.)

@1900 – Hotel Holyrood*

In 1894, Whittier’s widow sold the building to David and Flora Cochrane for $12,000. The Cochranes, also of Canada, remodeled the rooms and renamed the building Hotel Holyrood in 1895. The new name was likely in reference to the Holyrood district of Edinburgh, Scotland (and a nod to David’s Scottish roots).

In 1900, the Cochranes added large expansions along both Eighth and Market streets, increasing the hotel’s size to accommodate 100 guests.

Mid-1920s – Hotel Plaza**

In 1924, new owner Pliny T. Evans — son of early Riverside leader, Samuel C. Evans — streamlined the original building’s rustic, three-story mansard-style facade. Evans modernized the interior, converting 70 rooms and 5 bathrooms into 40 larger rooms and 15-20 baths. (Although city permits indicate the 1924 remodeling may have included a new corner building, it’s unclear whether this was actually the case. Later newspaper accounts report it as being gutted and remodeled, which exterior photos seem to confer.)

@1940 – Hotel Plaza**

Following the remodeling, the building was renamed Hotel Plaza — a name that would last atop the building well into the 1990s (view back of sign @1970).

We’re not certain when rooms stopped being rented, but a 1980 newspaper article about possible redevelopment for a “modern high-rise” indicates rooms were still occupied. More recently, we seem to recall upper spaces still in use during the mid- to late-1990s.

2009 – 3801 Market Street

City permits show the various street level spaces housed several commercial entities over the years, including at least one restaurant (Chung King), two furniture stores (Riverside Home Appliance, Raymonds), a shoe store (Greenwood Shoe), a print shop (American Speedy Printing), a market and deli (Atlas Market), a development firm (Peri & Associates), a skateboard shop (Crooks) and a psychic reader (Psychic Experience).

Though not a particularly striking building in its own right, we’ve come to admire the old Hotel Plaza building more in recent years, mostly for its place in downtown Riverside’s early history. But we’ve also come to appreciate its old-school “urbanity” — fire escapes, cluttered backside — not found much these days, particularly in predominately suburban towns like Riverside.

2010 – 3845 Market Street

Along with the demolition of all three buildings that comprise the Hotel Holyrood/Plaza, an adjacent building (3845 Market Street) will also come down. Together, the four structures are to be replaced by a $24 million, 51,600 sq. ft. building that will house RCC’s Culinary Arts Academy and administrative offices. The new three-story building will include a rooftop reception area. Completion is expected by April 2014.

Situated behind the new Culinary Arts building will be the focal point of the district’s overall arts school plan — the $63.2 million, 88,862 sq. ft. Henry W. and Alice Edna Coil School for the Arts***, which received a $5 million grant from longtime local builder Henry Coil Jr. It will include two levels of underground parking and be situated on an existing parking lot behind the Market Street buildings. This later phase is expected to be completed by Fall 2015.

1926 – Riverside Finance Company

One exception to the overall demolition plans on the site is the restoration of the former Riverside Finance/Citrus Belt/Sterling Savings building. Located on Market Street adjacent to White Park, it will be remade into the $6.3 million, 11,000 sq. ft. Center for Social Justice and Civil Liberties.

Expected to open in June 2012, the center will contain two floors of gallery space and house the college’s Mine Okubo archival collection. Riverside-native Okubo was a Japanese-American civil rights advocate and alumna of RCC. She bequeathed her collection to the college upon her death in February 2001.

The most interesting aspect of the 85-year-old building’s refurbishment is the uncovering of its original ornate facade, which appeared again this week after being hidden behind a false-front for the past 50 years. Designed by well-known Los Angeles architect Stiles O. Clements (Wiltern Theater, Mayan Theatre), a 1926 newspaper article described the building and its facade as follows:

Plans have been completed for the handsome new office building of the Riverside Finance Company, at Market Street and Whittier Place. … (the building) emphasizes a classical architectural design … with an arched entrance of distinctive metropolitan character. … The ceiling will be unusually high, giving a dignified and attractive effect to the interior of the building.
Riverside Press – Aug. 1926

1964 – Sterling Savings

The classic facade was later hidden behind a flat stucco wall held up by steel beams added around the bank (and adjacent building). The wall was then partially shielded by thin, horizontal slats, giving the building a sleek and modern look popular at the time. City permits seem to indicate this took place in 1961 for then-tenant Citrus Belt Savings & Loan.

Through the years, at least two other banks — Sterling Savings & Loan and Imperial Savings — have also occupied the space (we also recall Provident Savings Bank may have had a branch there at some point as well).

2010 – 3855 Market Street

A few years back, a hole was punched into the front stucco facade, revealing the still-existing, 1926 Spanish Baroque (Churrigueresque) facade. This revelation no doubt helped save the building as part of the upcoming arts school complex. (We’re glad to see RCCD make such preservation efforts.)

In a ground-breaking ceremony held last Thursday for the project, college officials finally unveiled the classic facade. Down came the stucco wall and portions of brick veneer on the side of the building. Also removed was some form of faux marble veneer at the base of the building, revealing brick underneath (which is likely a covering of some sorts as well).

Overall, the 1926 facade looks to be in relatively good shape, though there are portions that appear to have been damaged and possibly even shaved down during the 1961 covering. Hopefully, the refurbishment will be able to fully restore these portions.

Though we’re glad to see the arts school moving forward and are very happy to see the preservation of the old Riverside Finance building, we’ll be sad to see the Hotel Holyrood/Plaza come down.


Images courtesy of: * Riverside Metropolitan Museum, ** Steve Lech, *** Riverside Community College District

Sources: “Riverside’s Invisible Past” (Joan Hall), The Press-Enterprise, City of Riverside, Riverside Public Library, “Riverside – 1870-1940” (Steve Lech), Old Riverside Foundation

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  1. Although I am sad to see a building torn down & it was sad to watch part of the demo yesterday… I am excited for the Riverside School for the Arts & to see the other building uncovered & restored.

  2. @Krystal — Yes, it’ll be interesting to watch the restoration of the old Citrus Belt Savings & Loan building. We’re also glad to see an important institution like RCC grow and, in particular, add synergy to the downtown arts community.

  3. It’s really sad that in the same breath we push the “historic” downtown label that historic buildings are disappearing. Just in the past year alone at least three have been destroyed. One of our original hotels that Frank Miller operated that was 130 something years old was thrown out. Yet, we are historic. As a native I remember downtown from the 70s and so much were lost. Between the mostly vacant and gymnasium like Raincross “doublecross” square to the new city hall, blocks and blocks of true authentic fabric was lost. Prior to that, downtown was still full of offices and actual people. When those two things came to be then its been largely a ghost town. Nowadays people are attracted to fake downtowns like the Plaza. Luckily some have survived and been restored but how much more will we lose in the coming years? Seems so ironic that concrete parking structures replaced actual buildings that housed stores and offices that there was no need for the parking structures that replaced them. Decades and decades of bad city planning cost us a real complete downtown that would of had the potential to come back to life by now. Sadly, with some exceptions, much was lost and it ain’t coming back.

  4. @George — Indeed, there have been some major missteps recently by the city with regards to historic preservation and/or adaptive re-use. In particular, the Hess Garage and Press Bindery buildings come to mind as does the impending demolition of the downtown library — one of the city’s best representations of mid-century modern architecture. And although we also understand that adaptive re-use is not always possible nor practical, we feel the city does need to push it (via better incentives?) as a much more viable and feasible alternative. As such, we’re a bit concerned that if the city isn’t careful, a whole generation of mid-century modern buildings could be wiped out (just like many cities did during the post-war era with Victorian-era structures).

    With that said, we also feel the city deserves a fair amount of credit as well. After all, we at least have many elements of our historic downtown still intact (indeed, in some cases, this took citizen involvement, action and hard work as well). Some cities, including Corona and most of those in Orange County (Anaheim in particular) have completely wiped out their original downtowns. Long Beach also lost quite a bit as did Glendale and even a large portion of downtown Pasadena has been redeveloped (and almost all of today’s Old Town was close to demolition at one point).

    But that is the real challenge, isn’t it — balancing preservation with progress? Let’s be real, preservation is only good without stagnation. No city can afford to stagnate for long periods (just ask those “rust belt” cities). Thus, some new development (and even redevelopment) is required. Even Pasadena would not be nearly as successful today if it did not have both the old and the new economic developments — e.g., the mid-rise offices and historic old town (again, the balance between preservation and progress). San Diego also comes to mind in this regards. Petco Park indeed wiped out a large chunk of downtown, but look what the city has since gained? In essence, the new ballpark expanded the very successful Gaslamp Quarter eastward. (If you haven’t been there recently, we suggest a visit). And although no city is perfect (market conditions tend to dictate much of the eventual success), we feel Riverside has actually done a decent job the past 50 years balancing the two. But again, that’s not to say that it’s been easy and that there haven’t been some disappointments, significant mistakes and/or loses (both the Carnegie Library and the Evans Building come to mind).

    With regards to Riverside’s downtown pedestrian mall, Raincross Square (convention center) and City Hall developments … without a doubt these were major (and even difficult and controversial) projects for the city to make during the 1960s and 1970s. But in the end, 40-50 years later, we feel it has worked out in Riverside’s favor. Let’s not forget, even before the pedestrian mall project, Main Street was well on its way to being replaced as the city’s “shopping magnet” with the 1957 and 1970 openings of the Riverside Plaza and Tyler Mall (Galleria at Tyler) respectively. This transformation happened in downtowns all across America and there was only so much Riverside (and all cities nationwide) could do to counteract this cultural phenomenon. And although creating the pedestrian mall may have initially accelerated the demise of its retail component, it has since evolved into a unique destination that adds tremendous character to downtown Riverside. Sure, it has had its ups and downs, but there’s no doubt the downtown mall is one of the most unique pedestrian malls of its kind in all of California. We’re very glad that it remains — and hope it continues to grow and evolve. However, we just wish more folks in and around the city (and even SoCal) would take the time to appreciate it more than they do.

    But yes, in general we wholeheartedly agree the city could — and should — be doing a much better job with protecting and preserving the significant older buildings that remain (including some that are within the 40-50 year range).

    Thanks for posting!

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