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Overview of Palm Springs,  California

"Some information from Wikipedia"

Palm Springs California Overview

Palm Springs, California

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Palm Springs is a famed Riverside County, California, desert resort city, approximately 110 miles east of Los Angeles. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 42,807. Palm Springs possesses some of the most famous golf courses in the country. Swimming, tennis, horseback riding, and hiking in the nearby desert and mountain areas are other major forms of recreation in Palm Springs. It is one of nine adjacent cities that make up the Coachella Valley (Palm Springs area). The area code for Palm Springs is 760. The ZIP codes for Palm Springs are 92262 through 92264.

Once known as the "Playground of the Stars," Palm Springs is a small city with the legacy, amenities, and history of a large, cosmopolitan city. Palm Springs lies at the foot of one of Southern California's most majestic mountain peaks, 10,834-foot-tall Mount San Jacinto, whose eastern flank abuts downtown. It is not unusual to swim in 80 degree weather while looking up at snow covered peaks.

Early History

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians is composed of two lineages of Cahuilla Indians (panik and kauasik) whose traditional territories encompass modern day Palm Springs. The Agua Caliente Indian Reservation was established by the United States Government in 1876 and 1877. The reservation occupies 32,000 acres, of which 6,700 acres lie within the city limits. Agua Caliente Indian Reservation lands were granted in alternating squares laid out in a checkerboard pattern. This alternating checkerboard pattern was originally granted by the United States Government to the Southern Pacific Railroad as an incentive to bring rail lines through the open desert. The majority of reservation's lands are not communally owned by the tribe, but are instead allotted to and owned by individual tribal members -- a result of the 1947 Lee Arenas Decision. Reservation lands, whether individually allotted or communally owned by the tribe, are held in trust by the United States.

The Cahuilla name for the area was "Se-Khi" (hot springs). Spanish explorers named the area "Agua Caliente" (hot water). The current name for the area, "Palm Springs," was likewise preceded by the name "Palm City" which appeared on the town's first official survey map. References to "springs" and "hot water" in historical place-names revolve around the hot spring waters located beneath Indian Canyon Way at Tahquitz Canyon Way, which are pumped and redirected to spa facilities at the same location. The hot spring has played an important role throughout the history of the tribe and the City. According to Cahuilla mythology, the hot spring is a place of power and healing where nukatem (powerful beings) dwell and a source from which shamans obtained their power.2 The hot spring and its health-giving properties would over time shape Palm Springs' image as a health resort. References to "palm" in historical place-names refer to the native Washingtonia filifera palms which grow in abundance in the Indian canyons.

John Guthrie McCallum is often erroneously cited as being a judge and Palm Springs' first white resident, of which he was neither. Jack Summers, a stagecoach driver, arrived at Agua Caliente in about 1863 to replace William McCoy as stage coach station keeper. These two individuals constitute the town's first white residents. McCallum would not arrive until the 1880s, ostensibly to find a healthful climate for his tubercular son, but instead used his status as a federal Indian Agent (1883-1885) to launch a career as land developer and promoter, having recognized the potential of Palm Springs as a health resort and for its agricultural potential. He quickly joined with other promoters and with them took possession of some of the most desirable lands in the area, especially those with a water supply. Although it was the duty of Indian Agents to inform Indians of their rights and to act as their advocate, McCallum instead withheld legal information from the Cahuilla which stated that "bona fide" settlers (both Indians and whites) had a right to claim homesteads existing prior to the taking of lands for the Southern Pacific Railroad. This law required such claims to be filed by a given time. Unaware of this requirement, no Cahuilla claims were filed, resulting in a devastating loss of traditional Indian land and property.

By May 1876, the Southern Pacific Railroad had constructed a train station at Seven Palms at a distance of seven miles from Agua Caliente. Many Cahuilla had been active in the railroad's construction, replacing Chinese laborers who had died in the desert heat. Seven Palms Station was known as the "Station from Hell" due to its isolated, windy location. The presence of the train, like the stagecoach line that preceded it, opened up Agua Caliente (Palm Springs) to the world. At about this same time, the Palm Springs Hotel and a rustic bathhouse were established in the vicinity of the Section 14 hot spring.

Mid-Century Period

Palm Springs' heyday is generally considered to be the 1930s to 1970s. Before then, the town had been a popular winter getaway for rich families from the East Coast and Midwest. But it was Hollywood's adoption of Palm Springs as a very public playground that put it on the covers of Life and the movie fan magazines and created its reputation for glamour, wealth, healthy outdoor living, and relaxation. Palm Springs came to be a favorite destination, if only seasonally, for many of Hollywood's most glamorous stars, and the list of actors, directors, and producers who had houses there, mostly in the Las Palmas and Movie Colony neighborhoods, includes Clark Gable, Al Jolson, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson, Steve McQueen, Howard Hughes, Jack Warner, Donna Reed, Bob Hope, Elvis Presley, Liberace, Debbie Reynolds, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Dinah Shore, Sonny Bono, Cher, Kirk Douglas, Jack Benny, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. In addition, several U.S. presidents, including Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush, have visited, and Gerald Ford has a house in nearby Rancho Mirage.

Palm Springs' famous "playground of the stars" tagline has its origins from this period, when celebrities and the Hollywood elite flocked to Palm Springs to see and be seen in one of its many nightclubs, country clubs, hotels, poolsides, and restaurants. Charles Farrell's Racquet Club (opened with fellow actor Ralph Bellamy), the Hotel Mirador, Irwin Schuman's Chi Chi nightclub, George and Ethel Strebe's Doll House nightclub, Irwin and Mark Schuman's Riviera Hotel, Vic Sudaha's Palm House restaurant, the Foldesy family's Polynesian restaurant, Palm Springs Hotel, Trader Vic's restaurant, Aloha Jhoe's restaurant and bar, Tom O'Donnell's golf course, the Deep Well Guest Ranch, the Desert Inn, the Del Tahquitz hotel, and the Oasis hotel were some of the more popular destinations.

In a less glamorous light, the mid-century period was also marked by a two significant events which exposed elements of the City's underlying problems with corruption, racism, and poverty.

In 1959, landmark legislation by the Secretary of the Interior equalized allotted Indian lands, thereby setting the stage for development of Indian lands within the City of Palm Springs. This same legislation, however, recognizing the potential value of Indian lands within the boundaries of a world famous resort, also called for the appointment of conservators and guardians to "protect" Indians and their estates from "artful and designing persons"5 who might otherwise cheat them out of their properties, which could now be legally sold by the individual tribal members who owned them. By declaring Indians as "incompetent," court appointed conservators and guardians took control of a majority of Indian estates. A major oversight of the program was the appointment of judges, lawyers, and business people as Indian conservators and guardians -- the very people the program sought to protect Indians and their estates from. The program was administered by the Indio Superior Court's Judge Hilton McCabe, subject of the Ed Ainsworth's Golden Checkerboard. Bolstered by the ability to control valuable Indian estates, the conservatorship program fostered corruption among those conservators and administrators with their own economic agendas. A series of Pulitzer Prize winning Press Enterprise articles authored by journalist George Ringwald exposed such instances of excessive fees, fee-splitting, and other types of questionable conduct. The conservatorship program was officially ended in 1968 after the Secretary of the Interior's Palm Springs Task Force likewise exposed it as fraudulent and corrupt.

In 1962, the City of Palm Springs formally initiated an urban renewal project which sought redevelop Section 14 -- a residential enclave made up largely of low-income, African-Americans working in the local service industry. (Section 14 at this time was quickly becoming one of the City's most valuable properties after tribal land allotment equalization occurred in 1959 and by means of radical changes taking place in Indian land lease laws.) By seeking cooperation with the Association of Conservators and Guardians and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the City cleverly maneuvered around legal restrictions which otherwise limited its power to pursue an urban renewal program on Indian owned lands. The result of this indirect, legally questionable approach to Section 14 urban renewal was disastrous. Conservators and guardians in charge of Indian estates, made up largely of judges, lawyers, and business people with a vested interest in rapid development, were asked to give preliminary condemnation notices to residents and owners of properties on Section 14. However, in many cases, homes were dismantled and burned without any notice given. Residents were forced to relocate to windswept, defunct housing tract on the outskirts of town, where many still live today. Loren Miller, in a 1968 investigative report prepared for the California Department of Justice, described the urban renewal program as a "city engineered holocaust." The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), active in hearings at the time of the program, has asked the City of Palm Springs for an apology but has not received one to date. This fact is especially notable after the city elected its first African-American mayor, Ron Oden, in 2003.

Modern Renaissance

As the 1970s drew to a close, increasing numbers of retirees began moving to the Coachella Valley. As a result, Palm Springs began to evolve from a winter resort that became a virtual ghost town each summer into a year-round retirement community. Businesses and hotels that formerly shuttered for July and August started staying open all summer. As commerce grew, so too did the number of families with children. However, in general the 1970s and 1980s were a period of economic decline for Palm Springs.

The City began to show signs of economic recovery in the 1990s. Mid-century houses built in an architectural style now fashionable again began selling for many times their 1980s asking prices. Ironically, it was the economic stagnation of the 1970s and 1980s that preserved much of Palm Springs' mid-century architectural heritage. The decade or so from the late 1990s to the present has been a period of architectural renovation and preservation, due in great part to an influx of young, urban expatriates with an appreciation for mid-century design. Businesses, inns, and other enterprises have in turn begun catering to the tastes of these new arrivals, heralding a mid-century modern

renaissance. Also contributing to Palm Springs' economic revival has been the arrival of Indian gaming. In addition to the creation of a broad employment base and the development of a new type of local tourism (gambling), the tribe contributes a percentage of its profits to philanthropic causes and local infrastructure, such as the Palm Springs Fire Department, Palm Springs Public Library, and Boys and Girls Club of the Coachella Valley.


Palm Springs is sheltered by the Little San Bernardino Mountains to the north, the Santa Rosa Mountains to the south, and the San Jacinto Mountains to the west. This geography gives Palm Springs its famed warm, dry climate, with 354 days of sunshine and less than 6 inches of rain annually. Winter temperatures average in the 70s with nights in the low-to-mid 40s, spring high temps in the 80's to mid 90's, with nights in 50's and 60's, the dry desert heat of summer pushes daytime temperatures well above 100, with overnight temperatures in the mid-to-upper 70s, and in fall temperatures are in the 80's and 90's with overnight temperatures in the 50's and low 60's. In general, very high temperatures in the summer are made bearable by the dryness of the desert heat. Summer evenings and nights are very pleasant. Average Precipitation. per annum is 5.23 inches

Points of Interest

Celebrities still retreat to Palm Springs, but today the city's economy focuses on tourism, real estate, health care, shopping, and gambling. It is a city of numerous festivals, conventions, and international events.

Palm Springs, because of its beauty and resort style of living, has had special appeal to senior citizens and the gay community. With the peace and spirituality of its desert and mountain setting, and its many activities and points of interest, Palm Springs is again attracting the attention of international travelers, young people, and those who want to live in or retire to one of the most unusual and attractive resort areas in North America.

The Indian Canyons are an often overlooked wonder. The canyons surrounding Palm Springs and their associated resources are sacred to the Cahuilla and are historically important to Cahuilla history, scientists, and nature lovers. Tahquitz Canyon and three southern canyons are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Palm and Andreas Canyons are known as the world's largest and second largest California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera) oases, with Murray Canyon listed as fourth. While in Palm Canyon, visit the Trading Post for hiking maps, refreshments, Indian art and artifacts, books, jewelry, pottery, baskets, weavings and conversational cultural lore.

Downtown's Palm Springs Walk of Stars, a long stretch of terrazzo stars embedded into the pavement, features celebrities and other notable figures who have lived and played in Palm Springs.

The world's largest rotating tramcars can be found at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Constructed at Chino Canyon at the north end of town, tramway cars ascend two-and-a-half miles up a steep incline through five unique life zones to reveal dramatic, sweeping valley views from within San Jacinto Mountains. The ascent from desert floor to an altitude in excess of 8,500 feet is accompanied by a drop in temperature of 30 degrees or more, giving riders a cool respite from the heat on a hot summer day. A wilderness area can be explored at the top of the tram and there is a restaurant with spectacular views.

In recent years, Palm Springs has become a shopping mecca for enthusiasts of mid-century-modern design. Vintage design, clothing, furniture, and thrift stores abound.

The Palm Springs International Film Festival, founded by former mayor Sonny Bono in 1990, draws film lovers and aficionados from around the globe, having become over time one of the nation's premiere film events. The Festival has an attractive film sales and distribution record and is seen by American distributors as one of the best Academy Award campaign marketing tools. It also features cultural events, filmmaker tributes, industry seminars and an annual black-tie gala award presentation.

The Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films & Short Film Market (ShortFest) is the largest short film festival and market in North America, screens over 350 short films with a concurrent film market facility featuring over 2,400 shorts. An Academy® sanctioned Festival, over the past 10 years, 50 of the short films nominated for Academy Awards® have been screened at the Festival prior to receiving their nominations. The Festival offers 20 awards in ten different categories, featuring cash prizes and/or film stock.

The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies stage-show spectacular brings one of the last of the authentic vaudeville shows still presented in the United States; one of the unique aspects of the show is that all of the performers are over the age of 55. The follies show is largely patronized by an older crowd to which it caters its similarly antiquated brand of humor.

Every Thursday evening downtown Palm Springs is transformed into Village Fest, featuring a diverse display of arts and crafts, a certified farmer's market, food, and live entertainment on beautiful Palm Canyon Drive. Roads are cut off to traffic, granting pedestrians and merchants full access to the area.

The Palm Springs Historical Society maintains Palm Springs' largest collection of historical photographs, objects, and ephemera. It also maintains two museums, the McCallum Adobe and the Cornelia White House, on site at the Village Green in downtown Palm Springs.

The Agua Caliente Cultural Museum is a non-profit organization interpreting the history and culture of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and other Cahuilla peoples. Located on the Village Green in downtown Palm Springs, its collections include an Indian basketry collection and other Native American cultural artifacts. The ACCM will open a new facility on Tahquitz Canyon Way in late 2008 .

Housed in modernist masterpiece designed by architect E. Stewart Williams, the Palm Springs Art Museum features contemporary and Western American art, changing exhibits, the Annenberg Theater, and curiously an Indian basketry collection.

The Agua Caliente Spa Resort Hotel and Casino offers gambling opportunities, restaurants, and spa facilities. The spa facilities draw their thermal waters from the original hot springs which gave rise the names "Palm Springs" and "Agua Caliente."

The Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium is a glimpse of old Palm Springs and features 3,000 examples of desert cacti and other desert plants, grouped by geographic regions.

The Palm Springs Air Museum is a non-profit educational institution whose mission is to exhibit and educate about World War II combat aircraft and the role the air crews had in achieving this great victory.
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