The most iconic architectural symbol of the Mission Inn is the campanario, or bell wall. Built in 1902 as part of the Mission Wing expansion of the hotel, the campanario was an addition to the original 1876 structure, the Glenwood. When plans were beginning for the construction of the Mission Wing, Frank Miller and architect Arthur Benton were anticipating the demolition of the Glenwood to make way for a large interior courtyard surrounded by the U-shaped Mission Wing, but Frank's daughter Allis pleaded with her father to keep the Glenwood structure, where she had been born in 1882. To honor his daughter's wishes, Frank decided upon a renovation plan of the Glenwood that removed the exterior wooden siding, exposed the adobe brick construction, and created a second story, rooftop garden—calling it the Old Adobe. The campanario was built as an add-on architectural feature to the Old Adobe along with serving the practical use of housing an exterior staircase to the rooftop garden. The campanario, also referred to as the campanile, arched over the main entrance walkway leading into the lobby of the Inn.
Its architectural design, said to be copied from the bell wall at Mission San Gabriel, serves as one of the foremost mission-style cues on the property—in addition to the 7th Street arches that were added several years later.
In 1948, when the Inn decided a pool for a hotel in Southern California was a necessity, Allis Miller Hutchings reluctantly permitted the demolition of the Old Adobe to provide the needed space for an Olympic-sized swimming pool. While the Old Adobe, with its rooftop garden were demolished, the campanario remained along with the stairs that once led guests to the quaint garden.
After decades of welcoming guests, the campanario had serious structural complications. So much so, that the original brick and stucco structure was beyond repair. While the original staircase in the campanario could be salvaged, demolition of the rest of the failing structure was required in the late 1980's. The recreation of this Mission Inn icon was masterfully done—down to the last detail with the use of modern construction materials.
Today the campanario remains the beacon symbol of this iconic hotel with thousands of guests having strolled through its signature archway.
(Excerpts from Mission Inn Foundation archives.)