If you’re a Downey local then you definitely know The Rives Mansion, otherwise known as the random mansion you’ve seen on Paramount and Third your whole life! I’m sure you’ve assumed it has a history, but have you ever actually known it? Here is the story of The Rives Mansion, an interesting story of migration and an important piece of local history.
The mansion was built in 1911 and once had 75 acres to itself full of walnut trees and a citrus farm. A product of The Craftsman Movement, The Rives Mansion abides by the popular architecture at the time and features 6 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a dance hall, library, butler’s pantry, breakfast room, and more. The property still holds the original water tower (now retired), greenhouse, and walnut drying shed.
When The Civil War ended, life in the South was a little rough to say the least. In an effort to regain the life many had before the chaos that came with having a four year long war on American soil, fleets of Southern residents left their homes to start life anew. Among those migrating was Dr. Burwell Edward Rives and his wife and children. Once arriving in Los Angeles, Rives became the area’s first most prominent doctor and soon opened up Downey’s first pharmacy and drug store! Sadly, Rives passed in 1880 at only 43 years old. His son James Rives, though only 16, took on the role of provider for his mother and siblings.
After dropping out of high school James start a printing company and within five years created and disbursed Downey’s first newspaper, The Downey Review. By age 25, James had moved on from printing and local journalism to law school. During this time, he also founded a bank specifically for local ranchers. He was admitted to the California BAR, married Downey local Mary Lee Cromwell, and eventually served two terms as Los Angeles’s District Attorney from 1898-1902. He even went on to serve on The Supreme Court, where he worked until his death in 1923.
After James passed, the property was divided and commercial homes were built – creating the familiar suburban Downey homes we all can easily identify. Fun fact! Many of the surrounding homes still have the original citrus and walnut trees that James Rives farmed on the once large Rives property. The mansion is now owned by The Rivera Family, who lives in the home while also offering the property for community events, organizations, and high school functions.
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Landmarks describes the Rives Mansion as “a most interesting link to its agricultural past before Downey’s mass suburbanization after World War II.” Be sure to pass by The Rives Mansion sometime soon to appreciate the history in your own neighborhood!
Source: Article via The Downey Patriot http://www.thedowneypatriot.com/articles/looking-back-on-rives-mansion