There is a long, main thoroughfare leading from the Santa Ana River in Jurupa Valley west to Chino. This road, Mission Boulevard, was once part of the main highway between Riverside and Los Angeles.
Was it ever part of the mission system? No, but it was part of the efforts to romanticize the missions in the early days of auto travel.
The road that would become Mission Boulevard started like so many others as a “county road.” Early maps show many such “county roads,” such as today’s La Cadena Drive. By the early 1910s, though, the road that would become Mission Boulevard was an important link between Los Angeles and Riverside. It was at this point that several groups, including the Automobile Club of Southern California, chambers of commerce and the supervisors of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Diego counties, conceived of the idea of having an inland “Mission Road.”
This road would connect the mission church in Los Angeles to San Diego on a circuitous route visiting the San Gabriel Mission and Mission Play in San Gabriel, the Mission Indian school, Father Serra’s Cross and the Glenwood Mission Inn in Riverside, plus the Pala Assistencia and Mission San Juan Capistrano, among other sites.
On Aug. 13, 1913, an official announcement was made of the group’s intent to call this the “Mission Road.” With state funding, the entire route (most of which already existed but as various roads) would be improved to 60 feet in width and have mission cactus planted along the way. In Riverside County, it would be the aforementioned Mission Boulevard plus the highway leading out of Riverside and going up the Box Springs grade, through Soboba, then to Perris and Elsinore also.
The road would eventually end at San Diego, which was in the process of building and planning for the upcoming Panama-Pacific Exposition celebration. Establishing this road, it was thought, would be a great way to advertise Southern California – people could come to Los Angeles, then take the Mission Road to San Diego to view the exposition.
When it came time to approve the road, though, there was some opposition to the term “Mission Road.” Many in Los Angeles thought it would be confused with El Camino Real. So, representatives from Riverside suggested the name instead be changed to “Mission Boulevard,” which would also alleviate any confusion with other Mission Roads. That change was readily agreed to by the others, and Mission Boulevard was adopted.
Though Mission Boulevard was adopted for the road from Riverside to Ontario, the name Mission Boulevard and Mission Road were used interchangeably for several years. In part, this was due to San Bernardino interests trying to establish themselves along the road. That didn’t work out, and neither did the renaming of the entire route. But Mission Boulevard in Jurupa Valley still maintains its moniker from that time.
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