Volunteer Opportunities for Magnesia Falls Cove Modernism Tours in February 2022
Development of the Magnesia Falls Cove area began in the 1920s when a swath of desert land was purchased from the railroad and subdivided into several 10-acre date, citrus and grape “gentleman’s farms” on the North side of Highway 111. One of these farms, Eleven Mile Ranch (11 miles from Palm Springs/11 miles from Indio) became the White Sun Guest Ranch, now The White Sun neighborhood located on lower Magnesia Falls Drive.
In 1934, an adjacent section of land was purchased by a Pasadena investor who began selling lots and “modern attractive small homes” on streets exotically named; Sahara, Mirage, Veldt and Tunis. His sales pitch fanfare was said to have included a camel caravan. In 1937, six homes were completed on the $500 lots, two more started and telephone lines had been laid in lower Magnesia Falls Cove. It is during this period, despite the stock market crash and depression, that there were enough residents in April of 1937 to charter the Rancho Mirage Community Association (RMCA). Magnesia Falls Cove became a postal stop on the Bradshaw Highway (formerly a stagecoach road, now Highway 111) which connected California and Arizona. The shaded outdoor post office boxes for the residents quickly became their early community meeting place. It wouldn’t be until 36 years later that the City of Rancho Mirage was incorporated.
Believed to be the original entrance to Magnesia Falls Cove. Original Ad Copy:
“Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs’ favorite suburb, a development of beautiful lots and outstanding homes. Drive out Hiway 111 to the planned community of your dreams, 8 miles Southeast of Palm Springs just adjacent to the Thunderbird Country Club…”
After World War II, development geared up anew when in 1944, well-connected Hollywood lawyer A. Ronald Button and partner purchased what would eventually amount to around 1,900 acres. By the late 40s Button had over 100 homes under construction which were marketed to his Hollywood entertainer, actor and business friends.
In 1956 Button was joined by his brother-in-law, TV media star and developer Art Linkletter, and in short order they had 137 “new luxury homes” being built. The homes were “modern ranch homes and long gabled cottages” some with living rooms almost entirely made of glass. Homes included pools, fenced yards and some featured cement block “smoke ovens” at one end of the kitchen. The volume of building made it possible for the sales price for these homes to start at $17,500.
1940's home building activity moving up the cove.
Linkletter’s year or so involvement launched a burst of homebuilding that put the area “on the map” and inspired additional development higher up in Magnesia Falls Cove. The number of homes quickly grew to 364 marketed as “hassle free private homes with a built in social life”. The Alexander Company built many homes in the neighborhood and notable architects made our community a mid-century modern desert marvel with dozens of examples that stand today. Two hotels, Whispering Waters and the Casbah were both built in 1957 along with a 75 foot community pool in the center loop, Rancho Mirage Lane.
Circa 1957 Linkletter home with full glass living room front meets in right angle just below the apex of roof.
Button-Linkletter sold their remaining land in 1957 to Beverly Hills Developers, Harold Garfield and Arthur Desser. You might recognize their names in the uppermost Cove streets, Halgar and Gardess. They developed hundreds of lots, many featuring modern tri-gable roof style homes. They also created a commercial center across from Magnesia Falls Cove on the main highway. There are now around 550 homes in Magnesia Falls Cove and White Sun neighborhoods that comprise the RMCA.
After more than eight decades, the Rancho Mirage Community Association is the one thread that has been in place. Almost all the work of the RMCA is accomplished by its volunteer Board of Directors, initially eleven members, now five, who continue to serve the community, its homeowners and residents.
Similar to 1957 Linkletter home above using alternative plan with flat facade.