Palm Springs – Iconic From the Beginning

Some places, like Palm Springs, are instantly iconic: wide blue sky, natural hot springs, and mountains rising to snow-capped peaks – the perfect backdrop for low-slung architecture and motion pictures.

The area’s earliest residents were the ancestors of today’s Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. The 18th and 19th century saw the advance of Spanish expeditions, mapping parties, and railroads across the Sonoran Desert. In 1884, Judge John Guthrie McCallum built an aqueduct on land purchased from the railroad. With water assured, The Palm Springs Hotel was opened two years later and in 1909 Nellie Coffman opened the Desert Inn.

The word spread quickly. Doctors recommended desert air; affluent visitors found respite from snowbound winters and crowded cities. Incorporated in 1938 as the Village of Palm Springs, the town had become a favorite getaway for Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, Bob Hope, Dinah Shore, and scores of other stars who would lend their glamor to the Palm Springs name.

The 1950s brought two signature changes to the region’s landscape: golf and architecture. As country clubs became resort destinations (and, later, desirable residential developments), golf courses became ever more inspired in design. Today there are more than a hundred private and public golf courses in the Coachella Valley and numerous world-championship competitions.

At the same time, architects saw the landscape’s contours and colors as the ideal setting for what would become known as Mid-Century Modern. Captured on film in dramatic black and white by Julius Shulman, many of these remarkable homes are being preserved and every February, Modernism Week offers an opportunity to learn, tour, and peek inside.

With a year-round population and a robust tourist economy served by an international airport, Palm Springs is a non-stop celebration. Along with desert and mountain recreation, there is a weekly VillageFest, world-renowned film festivals, sensational restaurants, outstanding museums, and even the world’s largest rotating aerial tramcars.

PALM SPRINGS | (760) 325-4500