Phone: 760.250.5979   
VALLEY HISTORY

 

THE COACHELLA VALLEY
By James Latta

RESIDENCE INTERNATIONAL SUMMER 2007

 

Over a half-century ago, a rare series of circumstances resulted
in the formation of one of the planet’s most unique tourist
destinations. Like a scientific experiment approaching critical
mass, Palm Springs and its surrounding communities idled quietly in the
hot Southern California desert awaiting the approaching catalyst—one that when initiated, would slingshot the desert communities onto the international spotlight as the “Desert Playground For The Rich and Fabulous.” The calm and tranquil nights of this formerly sleepy desert village would soon be replaced with a mixture of martini-inspired revelry and outrageous parties that naturally accompany the Hollywood elite.


The spark was set in 1932 when film stars Charlie Farrell and Ralph
Bellamy co-founded The Palm Springs Racquet Club. It was from here that stories and photos of glamorous poolside romances and star-studded parties made their way into the media and helped to shape America’s collective understanding of the Palm Springs lifestyle.
 

Within a few short years, Walt Disney, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Greta Garbo, Jack Benny and an endless array of Hollywood celebrities and moguls, found Palm Springs to be the idyllic escape from Hollywood’s tabloids. Only 90 miles from Los Angeles, Palm Springs stood in stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of LA’s urban setting and offered a geographically-convenient retreat. Seemingly overnight, the desert became the destination-of-choice for Hollywood’s “A-List”
and gained international status as a sophisticated desert oasis.
Over the next two decades, the cities of Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert continued to bring national exposure to the Coachella Valley and attracted not only headliner celebrities but also leisure-hungry captains of East and West Coast industrialism. Private and luxurious country clubs such as Tamarisk, Thunderbird and Eldorado were practically “playground-zero” for America’s corporate royalty and established a standard of desert country club
living that was the envy of many and the reality of few.


Firmly respected as a destination rich with architecture, lifestyle and
affluence, the Coachella Valley continued to attract visitors from around
the globe. Glorified on the silver screen and sensationalized by Hollywood’s consistent patronage, the desert maintained its image as the place to see and be seen. During the 1960’s and 1970’s the desert was the home away from home for stars like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis, Liberace, Dinah Shore and Bob Hope, many of whom would eventually build permanent residences there.

As the number of golf courses, restaurants and condos increased, so too did
the valley’s desirability. Mild winters, jaw-dropping natural beauty, an abundant water supply and the Coachella Valley’s close proximity to San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange County made the desert an attractive destination for retirees and second-home buyers. With the marketing and public awareness set in motion over the past half-century, it wouldn’t take much to transform the
sandy paradise into a developer’s dream.

As developments proved financially successful and buyers illustrated an
appetite for more, real estate developers continued to acquire land. Given a palate of abundant terrain, ample water and the striking backdrop of Santa Rosa foothills, high-end communities like Morningside and The Vintage Club rose from the desert floor and, once again, redefined the desert country club experience.

Throughout the 1980’s, the construction of luxurious hotels, golf

courses and master planned communities flourished. Hotel properties
such as Indian Wells’ Hyatt Grand Champions Resort and Palm Desert’s
Marriott’s Desert Springs Resort offered first-class golf, tennis and spa
amenities and introduced countless would-be buyers to the desert’s
rapidly growing empire.
 

Further east, La Quinta’s historic La Quinta Hotel was augmented with the creation of two signature golf courses designed by Pete Dye and developed by the Landmark Land Company. Newly incorporated, the City of La Quinta now offered two new dramatic courses. Offering little to no retail and only sparsely populated, this “frontier-land” demarked the southernmost edge of the desert’s urban sprawl. Within fifteen years, that would change—dramatically.


Seventy-five years since Charlie Farrell and Ralph Bellamy’s Racquet
Club first introduced Hollywood and the world to the desert oasis, the
Coachella Valley has grown into what is arguably one of the most unique
and diverse resorts anywhere. Home to nearly 400,000 full-time residents, the Coachella Valley has evolved from its humble beginnings into a worldclass destination with few rivals. The desert is annually the host of nationally-recognized events such as The Palm Springs International Film Festival, The Coachella Music Festival, The Skins Game, The Humana Challenge, the Pacific Life Open, along with numerous annual art, fashion and charitable events. From Palm Springs to La Quinta, the Coachella Valley has attracted high-end retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany and Escada and offers first-class shopping and dining venues. Admired for the quality of life, safety and educational system (both public and private), the Coachella
Valley is also becoming the ideal corporate relocation site.


So too has evolved the country club lifestyle for which the Coachella Valley’s name is synonymous. Cities such a Palm Desert, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and La Quinta have made names for themselves through the creation of opulent and moneyed communities such as Bighorn Golf Club, The Reserve, Clancy Lane and Tradition Golf Club, to name a few. Behind their discreet gates, the modest and demure fairway-side condos of two decades earlier have been replaced with 5,000 - 20,000 square-foot tributes to architecture that can handily surpass the $1,000 per-square-foot mark.
 

Although Hollywood’s stars continuously seek residence in the desert,
today’s archetypal buyer is a star in the financial or corporate realm. They’ve chosen the Coachella Valley as a weekend retreat or full-time residence for the same reason they did 50 years ago.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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