The Controversial Renovation of the Rives Mansion

Andre Lucas, Co-Copy Editor

Since its construction in 1911 by James C. Rives, a former Superior Court judge, the Rives Mansion has remained a major historic landmark in the city of Downey. However, the current owners of the property recently introduced their proposal to build a cafe on the property, which has  been approved by the Planning Commission on Oct. 24. 


President of the Downey Historical Society, Bob Thompson, initially opposed the cafe proposal due to the mansion’s historical significance, but he later changed his mind when he realized the mansion was not only in need of renovation, but it was also in need of funding so that it can be renovated.


“The mansion is now in need of money and there’s a lot of money, extra money involved in the project,” Thompson said. “So for the owners who are renovating it, I wish them all the luck in the world.”


This proposed renovation has been viewed as controversial due to the historical significance of the mansion. This six-bedroom, three-bathroom home was initially a 75-acre citrus and walnut farm, and it has since been a residence to many families in Downey throughout its 108 year history.


Downey High School Student and a resident in Downey, Isabel Moreno, 11, gave her view on the controversial issue, and she gives an explanation of why she thinks the Rives Mansion should be preserved a remain a historic site in Downey.


“Although the location of the coffee shop isn’t the most ideal, in a way it’s necessary if people would like to see the mansion get restored,” Moreno said. “It’s been years since the mansion has been through any kind of restoration and if it continues without any form of preservation, this historic place will ultimately lose the historical value it holds.”


Moreover, the home is now listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks by the U.S. Interior Department. Even though the history of this mansion has its historical significance to Downey, the residence has endured controversial renovation plans before when Ralph Verdugo, a Dowey resident, proposed a restoration endeavor to convert the residence into a steakhouse and wine garden, so the coffee shop proposal is just one of many plans that have been introduced to update the home in recent years.


Lifelong Downey resident and student, Jacob Carig, 11, stated his opinion on why he thinks the current renovation plan is different from those introduced in the past, and he also mentioned why this historic landmark should remain in Downey.


“The plans are different because they involve adding two different things to the property, so it’s like comparing apples to oranges,” Carig said. “Also, since the mansion has been in Downey for so long, it’s like a statue to Downey.”


The owners planned to add a cafe to the mansion may be unfavorable to lifelong Downey residents, but they do not plan to undermine the home’s historic value, but they plan to use the cafe to finance a restoration effort they feel mansion needs.