Focusing on the Mission Inn and the Sherman Indian Boarding School in Riverside, this article analyzes an idealized “Hotel California” as a component of what I have called “the Spanish Imaginary.” Just as the Eagles’ song of the same name examines both the mythmaking of Southern California and the American dream, this article describes how that imaginary shapes our collective hallucinations of a time that rightfully should be mourned instead of celebrated. The Mission Inn, which opened in 1902, architecturally portrays the Spanish Imaginary and the mission themes of spirituality, hinting as well at the secular benevolence of the Mexicans and Americans who succeeded the Spanish. This article argues that the pervasive Mission Revival style of architecture that is synonymous with Southern California is a physical manifestation of the anti-Indian ideology that informed the greed and violence of European and American settlement. The newcomers eviscerated the future state’s environment, introducing a genocidal architecture that combines capitalistic culture with an historical imaginary, one that succeeded in drawing millions of settlers to California and became the embodiment of both the American dream and the American nightmare. Both continue to exert their influence: while the Sherman Indian Boarding School has moved away from its Spanish mission roots, today’s Mission Inn presents visitors with the idealized “Hotel California” version of the Golden State’s past, wrapping the reality of Indian slavery and genocide in a distinctive form of plantation nostalgia.

Perhaps no other structure in California better illustrates the colonial desires of Spain (then of Mexico, then of the United States) to “civilize” Indigenous peoples than the Sherman Indian Boarding School, whose original design illustrates the collective delusion of the Spanish Imaginary. Opening its doors in 1903, Sherman intentionally drew its design from mission architecture. The choice makes sense, given that both missions and Sherman were designed to transform Native peoples. Both utilized Native bodies for their labor. Both drew sustenance from Native peoples’ difference, and from their availability as a threatening “Other” requiring physical as well as cultural control. The Sherman Indian Boarding School provides a potent site of analysis of the ways that twentieth-century Americans used architecture to harness a mythical past and then bend it to capitalist goals. Moreover, implicating Mission Revival–style architecture in American processes of mythmaking illustrates how colonizers’ notions of race undergirded their spatial colonial logics, in ways that devalued Native peoples in the past and continue to obscure their physical and cultural persistence today.

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