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Palm Springs


California

Palm Springs for history buffs

The history of Palm Springs is as varied as those who live here and come to visit. From the native Agua Calientes to the first pioneers to the early Hollywood stars to the mid-century modernist architects to celebrity mayor, Sonny Bono, to today’s rediscovery, Palm Springs remains an historical and ecological wonder.

More than 2,000 years ago, Palm Springs' first residents were the ancestors of today's Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. One of many Cahuilla bands, the Agua Caliente existed as peaceful hunters and gatherers, living off the land, and adapting to the extremes of desert summers and mountain winters. Much of tribal life centered on the lush vegetation and abundant water in the area known as Indian Canyons, site of North America's largest natural fan palm oasis. The Cahuillas first encountered non-Indians in 1774, as Juan Bautista de Anza's expedition traveled through the area.

In 1853 a government survey party mapped Palm Springs and its natural hot springs mineral pool-now the site of the Spa Resort Casino-and established the first wagon route through the San Gorgonio Pass. The Cahuilla culture was dealt a severe blow with the 1863 smallpox epidemic that killed thousands.

In 1877 as an incentive to complete a railroad to the Pacific, the U.S. government gave Southern Pacific Railroad title to the odd-numbered parcels of land for ten miles on either side of the tracks running through the Southern California desert around Palm Springs. The even-numbered parcels of land were given to the Agua Caliente, yet federal law prohibited them from leasing or selling the land to derive income from it.

In 1884, Judge John Guthrie McCallum of San Francisco arrived in Palm Springs with his family, seeking health for his tubercular son. The first permanent non-Indian settler, McCallum purchased land from Southern Pacific and built an elaborate aqueduct. His work to bring water to the Coachella Valley foreshadowed the area's current importance as a rich agricultural region. Dr. Welwood Murray built the first hotel, The Palm Springs Hotel, in 1886. Palm Springs continued attracting more visitors and residents.

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Document Information
Source: Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism; magazineUSA.com
Last modified: 20080802
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