I was a few minutes early for my adventure at a historic house in Riverside, California, and therefore wandered the grounds as I waited for the staff to open the doors to Heritage House. Built in 1891 by Catherine Bettner, this house is now the flagship in the city’s fleet of historic homes.
On the day of my visit preparations were under way for the 125th anniversary ice cream social. Tents and signs were up in anticipation of the big event the following day.
A little background
The Bettner family had moved from the East seeking a more auspicious climate for Mr. Bettner. They found it, as well as a new way of life. They purchased 32,000 acres and planted the land with citrus. Riverside was in the middle of a citrus boom, and the family prospered. When Mr. Bettner died ten years later, Mrs Bettner left the farm and built herself a house, a showplace. Her house, seen in the photo above, is now known as Heritage House. When built, it was one of many in this area. As I said, Riverside was booming.
The formal parlor is an elegant, and feminine room. Gone are the oaks and dark colors of the reception area. This room is decorated in white and gold. In the photo above you can see the reflection of a painting of Louis Bettner, Mrs Bettner’s younger son. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 22. That must have been a crushing blow after the loss of her husband three years earlier.
Like any of her guests, I started my visit in the reception area where Mrs. Bettner received callers. Nearby is a music room, with piano, for anyone who was talented enough to provide some entertainment. If the guests had overstayed their visit, Mrs Bettner discreetly stood and moved to the tray containing the calling card. She turned over the card, and the visitor took the hint and left. Isn’t that a handy way to get rid of someone?
One thing is certain, this house has many windows and they let in loads of light. You can see the brightness in the photo above. The window is one of those that are on the front of the house. The room is under the tower. Rooms like the parlor and dining room had gas chandeliers, as well as windows!
The tour continued upstairs with Mrs. Bettner’s bedroom. While the upstairs doesn’t boast oak panelling and other fancy woods, the room of Catherine Bettner was impressive.
It is as large as the parlor! The windows once again let in plenty of light. The full length mirror, seen on the left edge of the photo, behind the bed, is built into the wall. It tilts so that Mrs. Bettner could check her attire from head to toe.
A few tips
I won’t take you from room to room; I’ll let you visit for yourself. While admission is free, be ready to make a $5.00 donation. The house opens at 11:30 and the first tour begins at 11:45. Tours are guided by a docent; one isn’t free to wander the rooms unaccompanied. The house, and antiques, are fragile. I’m sure they want to keep everything intact. Some things we could touch, but most we could not.
My tour was small, only three visitors. I didn’t linger for photos because the tour kept moving. There was a second group right behind us, and catching up!
I’m glad I paid a visit to Heritage House. It serves to remind me of the local history and the significance of Riverside in the late 19th century. I don’t think of Riverside as being the “richest city in the United States” but it once was. It was at the heart of the citrus industry and its per capita income rivaled that of any big city in the East.
If you would like to see more images from my trip to Heritage House, please click here.