Discover The History of Indian WellsFebruary 21, 2018
Time travel through the Coachella Valley – from the first inhabitants to the modern-day resort and community we know today.
True to its namesake, Indian Wells was first documented in 1823 by Captain Jose Romero as a Native American village formed around a hand-built well deep in the desert. The community began to evolve in the 1860s, with the discovery of gold on the Colorado River, when a trail was built through the desert to transport prospectors to their profits. To accommodate the increased traffic the County Well was built as a watering point just south of the original site.
Despite the risk of hold-ups, shootouts, and the extreme weather settlers began to arrive. The first Indian Wells post office was opened by James O’Neal and in 1922 a local publication reported that “no section of the Coachella Valley is now undergoing more rapid and substantial improvement than is Indian Wells.”
True to the article Palm Springs and Indian Wells flourished, with golf courses and country clubs springing up. Eddie Susalla and Paul Prom, later joined by Milt Hicks and Desi Arnaz, began building the Indian Wells Country Club & Golf Course.
By 1957, thanks to the presence of Hollywood heavy-hitters and President Eisenhower, Indian Wells forged its elite identity. To ensure the city’s residential and country club feel was protected, Indian Wells’ first mayor established a property owners association, which still defines Indian Wells today.
Preserving Indian Wells was paramount to its residents and on June 27 1967 an election was held. With 85% turnout and 93% voting in favor of incorporation, Indian Wells became California’s 400th city and work began immediately on policies to protect Indian Wells’ residential quality. A major step was taken when the city council passed a unanimous bill to preserve a section of the Santa Rosa Mountainland, ensuring the views were conserved.
The 70s saw major accomplishments for Indian Wells including drainage improvements and the naming of Eisenhower Mountain. In this time, the city also began its tradition of hosting major tennis tournaments, and The Redevelopment Agency was formed to raise funds to build a municipal golf course as a way to entice hotels to the area.
The city flourished during this decade. Tomo Fazio created two world-renowned golf courses and Highway 111 Corridor Master Plan received a citation for excellence by the American Institute of Architects. Indian Wells sidestepped the impending financial disaster and enjoyed solid financial standing.
As Indian Wells turned 25 the city focused a large portion of its energy on strategies to deal with the recession. However, it was not all money worries and the city approved its first affordable housing community, walking and cycle paths were completed, as was the over-crossing on Fred Waring Drive. Just a few years later, Indian Wells was listed as the city with the highest national income.
Today, across the country there’s a growing concern that history is vanishing. Our city is committed to preserving its vibrant past through the Indian Wells Historic Preservation Foundation, who preserve memorabilia and historical sites for the enjoyment of future generations.
At Miramonte Resort & Spa, we continue to develop the story of Indian Wells. We tip our hat to the past with cultural guest itineraries, full of architecture and museums, while also providing a lively place to stay when festival season descends on this once simple village.