Palm Springs History

From its beginnings as a prehistoric Native American seasonal migration destination to its role as the playground of Hollywood’s elite during the 1950s, Palm Springs has a deep and intriguing history that can be seen in every inch of the city and its surrounding desert environment. For more details on our fascinating Palm Springs history, read on below! 

The Native Americans of Palm Springs 

About 2,000 years ago, the Cahuilla Indians settled the region that would become Palm Springs, living in isolation from other cultures for centuries prior to contact with European explorers. Long before Palm Springs had its current name, the Cahuilla called the area Se-Khi, or boiling water, for the natural hot spring nearby. 

The Cahuilla would migrate to Chino Canyon and the rest of the Indian Canyons during the hot summer season and to Palm Canyon and a natural hot spring (where the current site of Spa Resort Casino in Downtown Palm Springs) during the bitterly cold winters. Remains of their civilization can still be seen today within the petroglyphs, house pits, ditches, and dams found in Tahquitz Canyon, Chino Canyon, and the Indian Canyons. Nearby, Andreas Canyon holds mortar holes, pictographs, and more petroglyphs. Streets throughout Palm Springs pay homage to notable Native Americans with their names. 

European Exploration and Settlement 

During the early 1820s, Mexican explorers attempting to find a route from Sonora to Alta California encountered Agua Caliente, or the hot springs, where modern day Palm Springs resides. The region became a part of the U.S. in 1848 during the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, after the Mexican-American War. 

Debate over the origin of Palm Springs’ name references how early Spanish explorers called the area La Palma de la Mano de Dios, while the earliest recorded use of the name Palm Springs is on a U.S. topographical map from 1853. This piece of Palm Springs information is hotly argued! As more settlers arrived, stagecoach and railroad stations came to the area. In the 1880s, Palm Springs was called Palm Valley. Town founder John Guthrie McCallum bought property after moving here with his ill son, who needed exposure to the dry climate for his health. McCallum directed the building of a hotel from across his house and began the first wave of tourism development. 

Palm Springs History: Early Tourism, WWII, Hollywood, and Mod Eras 

Palm Springs took off in popularity in the 1900s, attracting populations seeking a drier climate for health reasons, leading to the building of many hotels. During WWII, Palm Springs and Coachella Valley were a staging area for the Air Corps Ferrying Command. Post WWII, modernist architects like Frank Lloyd Wright were drawn to the desert landscape, as were the elite of Hollywood’s Golden Era. In the modern day, visitors can still see and experience these modernist buildings and homes in all of their glory. 

Call Us Today and Plan Your Getaway! 

Contact our office to learn more about Palm Springs’ history, history related activities and attractions, and Palm Springs information that you and your guests can enjoy during your time here when you book your stay in one of our glamorous vacation rental properties today! 


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