It may seem as though the famous desert city of Palm Springs has always been a star-studded playground for the wealthy but once it was the pristine habitat of indigenous tribes of native dwellers going back many thousands of years. Today, there are several cultural museums throughout the Coachella Valley dedicated to the preservation of artifacts and history of the proud and noble people who first settled the desert landscape.
Majestic canyons and natural mineral baths still attract residents just as they did several thousand years ago. Our indigenous forebears hunted deer, bighorn sheep and small game creating a life both comfortable and artistic. Following the Spanish encounter in 1492 this same land was inhabited by ranches, haciendas and the missions of the Catholic and Jesuit orders who explored and forever changed the history of the American Southwest.
In 1848, the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo between Mexico and the United States meant that many who had gone to sleep in Mexico awoke the next morning in the United States of America. One has only to look up at the night sky on a wind-kissed summer evening to understand what beauty and joy greeted those who were fortunate enough to make their home in the Coachella Valley. Today, that beauty remains and millions have made the journey to picturesque Palm Springs for renewed health, both spiritual and physical.
Canyons, streets, towns and casinos bear such names as Cabazon, Agua Caliente, Indio, Cahuilla, Tahquitz, Belardo, Morongo and many more in testament to the tribes and individual settlers who made this magical place their home. Today names such as Frank Sinatra, Fred Waring, Dinah Shore, Gerald Ford, Bob Hope and others remind us that along with the film industry came a new demographic of the Hollywood elite who also “settled” Palm Springs in their own special way.
The history is as diverse and rich as the people who created it. Raw desert land that stretched as far as the eye could see suddenly became plush golf courses and luxuriously appointed resort hotels. World class restaurants and trendy boutiques lined the wide palm tree lined streets and at night clear blue-watered swimming pools caught the reflection of twinkling white lights wrapped around every available surface. Desert breezes carried the scent of jasmine, hibiscus and cactus flowers across lazy patios and fountain graced courtyards. The good life must have been invented right here in Palm Springs.
In 1939 the census showed 5,336 full time residents with an increase during “season” to more than 8,000. Today the numbers are closer to 45,000 full time residents and several times that amount from Thanksgiving until around April 30, when high season winds down.
The Hollywood Film Colony flocked to the desert oasis during the 1940’s and over the years have only come to love it all the more. The elite world of Palm Springs was far removed from World War II, the Cold War, economic recessions, unemployment and the mundane cares of the real world. Multiple generations with recognizable names such as Sinatra, Presley, Gabor, Hope, Crosby, Bono, Annenberg, Ford, Eisenhower, and too many more to list built homes, invested in the growth of the Coachella Valley and enjoyed the incomparable desert lifestyle.
Today’s Palm Springs has just as many celebrities but it also has families and a strong middle-class working base that have made it much more than simply a playground or winter resort. The classic piano bars are still a Palm Springs staple, but so are art museums, theaters, concert venues, water parks, full -service spas, health food centers and restaurants, auto malls, shopping malls and virtually every franchise and store anyone could ask for.
Great schools and colleges, beautiful churches, legendary hospitals and rehabilitation centers, today’s Palm Springs has it all. Ethnic diversity, artistic elite, and world-famous festivals all call Palm Springs home. It has become the place to be any time of the year for those who cherish optimal health, laughter and fun, good friends, good times and good people. One thing is certain, the spiritual and mystical environment that so inspired our indigenous forebears continues to enchant the hearts of all who touch the desert.