top of page
  • Writer's pictureErica Barnett

History of Palm Springs

For thousands of years, the Coachella Valley was home to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. During the winter months the Agua Caliente created their village around the natural hot mineral springs (this is currently the Spa Resort Casino). In summer, to escape the extreme temperatures of the desert floor, the small band moved to the canyons where it was more comfortable because of the higher elevation. Most of the Indians had never seen a white man.

The first major settlement in Palm Springs began in 1884 when Judge John Guthrie McCallum moved from San Francisco with his family hoping the dry climate would cure his son’s tuberculosis. McCallum purchased land from Southern Pacific Railroad which he used to create a hotel. He had to build an aqueduct to bring water to the Coachella Valley. Unfortunately, the hotel did not last long; it closed in 1909. The hotel was modernized in 1927 but closed again in 1967. After the hotel closed for a second time, a shopping complex was built on the site.

Hollywood discovered Palm Springs in 1919. The desert was considered a choice filming spot for many stars at the time such as Rudolph Valentino, Ernest Torrence, and Theda Bara. Since then, Palm Springs has become known as "The Playground of the Stars." Many stars have had homes in the City or have stayed at famous places such as the El Mirador Hotel and Charles Farrell's Racquet Club. Spotting a movie star walking down the street or shopping is not an uncommon occurrence in Palm Springs.

While Palm Springs features luxurious homes and a beautiful landscape, the location is what really brought in the stars. The Hollywood studios had a “two-hour rule” that required actors under contract to be available within two hours from the studio for any last minute film shoots. Palm Springs is about an hour and 50-minute drive from Los Angeles, so the “two-hour rule” helped put Palm Springs on the map.

Palm Springs quickly became the perfect escape from the glare of Hollywood and provided Hollywood actors and actresses a welcoming place to relax. Residents who grew up in Palm Springs recall that there was an unspoken rule to not approach or bother celebrities who came to town. Bob Hope could play golf and Frank Sinatra could stroll downtown eating an ice cream while remaining anonymous.

Famous residents who frequently inhabited Palm Springs include: Albert Einstein, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Kirk Douglas and Cary Grant. Marilyn Monroe, Dinah Shore, Lily Tomlin and Elizabeth Taylor were also frequent visitors.

Marilyn Monroe was one the most well known residents in Palm Springs. From her affair with President John F. Kennedy to her 26-foot-tall commemorative statue, she quickly learned to call Palm Springs home. She lived in a secluded pink bungalow towards the end of her life and was known to frequent local parties with John F. Kennedy. Although her statue had been located elsewhere, it’s finally back in Palm Springs, and Monroe will forever be remembered as a celebrity who called Palm Springs home.

Of course, not all stars were promised privacy. Elvis Presley and his bride-to-be Priscilla rented a Palm Springs home for the site of their 1967 wedding and honeymoon. Unfortunately, the house was just down the street from gossip columnist Rona Barrett. Seeing the bride and groom's family and friends arrive at the home, Barrett pieced together what was happening and announced on live TV that Elvis and Priscilla were getting married in Palm Springs. The media swarmed in immediately, but luckily, Elvis had a friend who could help. The wedding was relocated to Las Vegas at the last minute, with air transportation provided by none other than Frank Sinatra.

Part of what makes Palm Springs so intriguing is its natural beauty. Palm Springs natural wonders are extraordinary and have been a sought-after location for numerous films and TV shows. Many fashion photo shoots, music videos, feature films and lifestyle TV shows have used Palm Springs as their destination. The palm tree-lined avenues, the sweeping views of Mt. San Jacinto, and the Santa Rosa Mountains have all made for the perfect place in countless film shoots.

During Palm Springs’ colorful history, it has received great praise and has become known as one of the hottest international destinations. Recently, In 2017 Palm Springs was named the Sexiest City in the United States by Victoria’s Secret. This might explain why New Hollywood has continued to enjoy the mystique of Palm Springs. Palm Springs has continued to offer a new generation of Hollywood celebrities relaxation and privacy.


17 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page