50 Moments in History That Shaped Greater Palm Springs

1927

Largest resort opens

On New Year’s Eve, Hollywood celebrities and local businesspeople celebrate the opening of the El Mirador Hotel in Palm Springs. Its 165 rooms welcome a host of guests: Albert Einstein, John Barrymore, Salvador Dalí, Shirley Temple, HG Wells, Charles Chaplin and Charles Howard, owner of the race horse Seabiscuit.

The 20-acre complex – with its Olympic-size swimming pool, tennis courts, stables and golf course – fell into debt after the stock market crash of 1929 and sold at auction for $300,000 in 1932.

A decade later, when the United States entered World War II, the Army purchased and converted the hotel into Torney General Hospital. It became a hotel again in the 1950s and 1960s until new owner John Conte turned part of the property into a television studio. In 1972, Desert Hospital purchased the entire property and began to expand into the modern Desert Regional Medical Center campus.

Through all of its owners and changes, the Spanish Colonial Revival style of the property
The El Mirador tower remains a landmark of the city at the entrance to the hospital.

1934

Albert Frey makes his first visit to Palm Springs

After leaving New York, where they designed the all-metal Aluminaire House in 1931, architects Albert Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher landed in Palm Springs, where they worked on the Kocher-Samson Building. Frey fell in love with the area and pioneered desert modernism, combining the extreme elements with non-traditional building materials that quickly cooled. Frey continues to put his modernist mark throughout the city, from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Valley Station and Trolley Service Station (now the Palm Springs Visitor Center) to City Hall of Palm Springs and at a variety of residences in the city. His second home in the desert – Frey House II, built around a huge boulder – becomes iconic. He lived there for 64 years, until his death in 1998 at the age of 95. The Palm Springs Art Museum plans to rebuild the Aluminaire House downtown.

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