Items on This page: 1.) The Hotel Belvedere 2.) The Rock Castle 3.) Woodward Pumping Plant
Chief Ho-to-pi, Star of Mockingbird Play, 1928
The following article is based on a story by Steve Lech a contributing columnist to the Press-Enterprise and the leader of the Riverside County Heritage Association. This article was first published February 2, 2014 and updated June 27, 2017. In the mid 1920's the area west of Perris was known as the Perris Heights and was begining to develop. In June 1926 the Riverside Press reported that a new hotel was being built on the Perris Heights tract. It would have a central lodge that would be surrounded by smaller structures that would provide sleeping facilities. The facility was finished in June 1927 and the facility opened and was named the Perris Heights Hotel. This opening was celebrated with a steak and chicken dinner in the main dining room. Many people came out to see the new facility which was owned by Ralph Goetz. By the end of 1927 he had purchased an adjacent ranch which increased the size of the hotel and grounds to 85 acres. During the fall of 1927 Goetz held a contest to rename the hotel. The prize was a lot within the Perris Heights district. There were many entries with poultry farmer John Kruger being the winner with his suggestion of the name of the Hotel Belvedere. (belvedere is a latin word that means beautiful view and fits the hotel's view of the Perris Valley.) The Hotel Belvedere served as a resort hotel and served some long-term guests. One was Artie Mason Carter, one of the founders of the Hollywood Bowl. Mrs. Carter helped organize the production of the "Mockingbird" (the Ramona outdoor play had been successful in Hemet during this time frame) an outdoor play in the hills above the hotel. During the summer of 1928 Goetz took an extended tour of Europe but before he left he changed the hotels name to the El Perrisito (meaning "Little Perris") which was the name of the Perris High School yearbook. The 1930's brought the Great Depression which took its toll. By 1936 the the hotel was sold and became the Palomar School for Boys which lasted into the 1960's. (the following photos show some scenes of the school during that time). The facility has been adapted for reuse as the Hacienda Christian Men's Campus and it served as a drug rehabilitation facility. The facitlity still exists and looks out over the Perris Valley as it did for more than 90 years.
Courtyard after snow.
Another part of courtyard after snow.
Palomar School from street (today's Tepee Lane) from seperate photos blended together to see large portion of campus.
Olive Tree which is still on property.
The Rock Castle - A Perris Landmark
View from North "D" Street
Probably one of the most famous landmarks of Perris is the Big House on the Hill, the Rock Castle, or the Hill Top Home, as it was variously known. Located in almost the geographical center of the expaned city limits of the City of Perris, this spacious home seems to guard U.S. Highway 395 (today's I-215) as it curves through the City, and it is visible -- with its bright, red-tile-roof -- from any part of the valley. The home was erected during 1928 and 1929 by Mr. and Mrs. J.L. Ragsdale who operated an oil distribution business and service station at Third and D Streets in Perris. The Ragsdales drove their Model T ford Truck to Whitewater (between Palm Springs and Banning) where, from the desert washes they selected each stone for texture design, color, shape and size. They then loaded the boulders by hand aboard the Model T truck, and hauled them to the highway where they were picked up and transported to the building site by the Fred Hare Trucking Company of Perris. Perhaps a slight idea of the blisters and the back-aches this labor produced may be gained from the knowledge that the lower base of the walls of the building are six feet thick; and, that there was a surplus of these boulders left over after construction. An interesting sidelight is that later these surplus stones were in great demand and were purchased by a number of local residents for such uses as patio enclosures and fireplaces. By the time the home was completed and ready for occupancy, the country was in the throes of the "great depression" with the result that the Ragsdales sold the property a few years later. The "Castle" has had several owners since, but it has always been used as a private Residence (and still is).
John & Ada Ragsdale, circa 1940
View of Rock Castle on Jan. 1,1998.
View of Drive Way with Car and Lady.
View on a Snowy Day.
Woodward Pumping Plant
Woodward Pumping plant.
The Woodward pumping plant photo reflects what Perris Valley farmers found necessary to do in order to farm successfully. Drilling wells for farming activities was necessary since the San Jacinto River was mostly dry during the summer months and an 1880 plan to bring water from Big Bear Lake did not materize. Farmers had to abandon the orange groves they had planted and turn to dry land farming of grain. William D. Woodward settled in the Perris area in 1884. He first proved up a homestead, the Aielo place on Post Road at the foot of the Gavilians. He sold this property and bought a store in San Diego. He then sold this store for a profit and returned to the Perris area to build the Woodward's Mountain Glen in Good Hope. He then began buying small tracts of land north of San Jacinto Ave. in Perris. These tracts of land eventually totaled about 180 acres and formed the very successful alfalfa farm he operated as Woodwards and sons. The pumping plant was located at the corner of San Jacinto and "G" Street. A 50-horsepower gasoline engin that was linked to a No. 8 centrifugal pump powered this plant. This combination was able to pump 200 inches of water from five 10-inch wells that were connected to the pump. These wells averaged 120 feet in depth while, at that time, the water table stood at 28 feet below the surface. The photo shows the members of the Woodward family. In the front row seated on the wall are sons George W. Woodward, Charles Woodward, with Clinton Woodward in the foreground. In the back row is an unknown male. The two women are: Mable Woodward, wife of George W. and Rebecca W. Woodward, wife of William D. Woodward who is beside her. The photos below show a couple of the pumps used on these wells over time and photos of the Woodward's Mountain Glen home in 1899 looking south near the present location of Club drive in the Good Hope area. The next photo is the view from the home toward the east. The home burned sometime before 1915.