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Palm Springs - History

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The Coachella Valley has been the home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians for centuries. They were peaceful hunters and gatherers whose tribal life centered on the lush greenery and abundant water in the Indian Canyons. (You can still visit these canyons today, see What to Do.)

A U.S. government survey party mapped Palm Springs in 1853 and discovered a natural hot springs mineral pool, 30-feet across, bubbling out of the sand. This pool gave birth to the name "Palm Springs" and is now the site of the Spa Hotel & Mineral Springs.

The survey party also established the first wagon route through the San Gorgonio Pass. Less than twenty years later, in 1872, Palm Springs became a stop on the Bradshaw stagecoach line between Prescott, Arizona and Los Angeles.

The first non-Indian resident was the Honorable Judge John Guthrie McCallum, who settled in Palm Springs in 1884. Two years later, Dr. Welwood Murray erected the first Palm Springs Hotel - a 26-guest establishment.

By 1920, the population had only grown to about 75 year-round residents. However, this little "village" began to gain notoriety as a winter playground for Hollywood stars, European royalty and international business tycoons.

Palm Springs lays claim to a piece of aviation history too. In 1913, Zaddie Bunker and her husband built the first garage in Palm Springs. Zaddie achieved fame as a great-grandmother with a pilot's license and a multi-engine rating. Piloting an F-100 Super Sabre, she flew faster than Mach 1 in 1959, joining an elite group of supersonic women pilots.

The desert provided excellent terrain for General George S. Patton Jr. to train U.S. Army tank corps for invasions in the North African deserts. An airfield was built with two mile-long runways to accommodate cargo and personnel planes. This airfield later became the Palm Springs Regional Airport.

Today, Palm Springs is home to 45,000 permanent residents - a population that doubles in the high season months of January through May.    

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