Quick History – California Baptist University

By Philip Falcone |

First located in El Monte, California, California Baptist University relocated to Riverside in 1955 in search of more space to grow. Since then, CBU has been the posterchild for growth and expansion. In the early days after relocating to Riverside, the campus consisted of 75 acres with multiple existing buildings. The most recognizable of those buildings was a 1921 complex that was built for the “Neighbors of Woodcraft” home for senior living with a large set back from busy Magnolia Avenue and lush front lawn for seniors to sit under the shaded arched arcade that was designed by famed architect Henry L.A. Jekel to be reminiscent of a California mission. Today this and other historic structures designed in the Spanish and Mission styles are home to the James Complex and Annie Gabriel Library.

In the early 1960s the college received full accreditation and quickly began outgrowing the existing buildings that were on site. In 1964 new construction began on the site for the first time in almost thirty years as the college stretched its enrollment to 500 students. As time went on, and even today, new construction is driven by the desire to increase enrollment. With more on-campus housing, enrollment coincides with this growth.

The 1970s and 1980s were trying for the college as enrollment did not grow at a rate leaders had hoped but the 1990s saw new opportunity for the college as they expanded programs and in 1998 became a university.

Known for their schools of architecture and visual arts, students from CBU have gone on to be esteemed muralists and artists locally and abroad. The deep connection to the Christian faith has also encouraged a new generation of leaders in Riverside’s faith communities.

Today, the university has stretched far beyond its original 75 acres to build on parcels across Magnolia Avenue and Adams Street, among others—showing that the desire to be part of the CBU community is as great now as it was when the college came to Riverside 70 years ago.