Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Hermit of Palm Springs

This is William "Billy" Pester - better known as the Hermit of Palm Springs.  He came from Germany wanting to avoid military service and ended up in Palm Springs.  Here, he adopted a "naturalist" way of life, living off the land and typically wearing few if any clothes.  Several sites have called him the first of the true California hippies, despite his living in PS from 1906 to the 1930s.  The Hermit's Bench is named for him - his little hut was located where the gift store/visitor center is presently in Palm Canyon south of town.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One Bright Spot

After my previous rant about the Cities of Banning and Indian Wells, one bright spot should be mentioned.  In 2010, the restored Fox Theater was reopened in Riverside, and just recently the reconstructed blade signs went up on the sides.  These blade signs were on the building until probably the early 1940s - so very few people around today remember when they were up.  From all indications, the theater is a success.  Let's hope it keeps going!

2010 - Not a good year for preservation in the County

Alas - 2010 saw the approval of plans to demolish two landmarks within Riverside County.  The first was the San Gorgonio Inn in Banning, long a landmark in a city with so few remaining landmarks thanks to the continuing myopic foresight of the City Council.  Wanting to replace it with a mixed-use development, the Council ordered that an environmental impact report be written, probably only because the San Gorgonio Pass Historical Society and the Old Riverside Foundation deemed the structure of merit under CEQA and they couldn't get out of it.  What resulted was the most biased and unobjective example of an EIR that I've ever seen.  The City opted to purchase the Inn in 2008, then boarded the first floor up and left the second floor open to bums and other transients.  Then, Mayor Bob Botts tells the Press-Enterprise that it's an eyesore - a self-fulfilling prophesy if I've ever heard one!  Regardless, the Council will get its wish in January when the Inn comes down, to be replaced (probably in 10 years in this economy) by a bland, architecturally devoid building with a stupid name that will "honor" the old Inn.  Congratulations City of Banning - you're becoming like all other cities with little to define yourself!
The second tragedy is the demolition of the Carl Bray house in Indian Wells.  Bray, a well-known artist there, had a landmark house and mid-century modern studio right on Highway 111.  Unfortunately, that was not enough to save it despite pleas from the community, and the Council voted to tear the buildings down in the name of "progress."  Congratulations IW!  You've removed probably the only older landmark that people outside of the city may know you for!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Occasional Postcard

An interesting shot of the Mecca Post Office -

Dead Indian Canyon hike

On Friday the 19th, fellow local historian Phil Brigandi and I hiked Dead Indian Canyon just south of Palm Desert.  This was one of the old Indian trails that led to the Santa Rosa Mountains.  Discussed in Desert Magazine by Randall Henderson (April 1938), it has a palm oasis in it that is hard to get to but definitely scenic.  The Seven-Level Hill switchbacks near it (the series of switchbacks on the Pines-to-Palms Highway) was created when the road was built in 1929-1932.  Most of the accounts have the road going down either in or near Dead Indian Canyon.  I'm sure it was supposed to be near it (as it is), since getting a paved road through here would have been challenging, to say the least!

The palm oasis in Dead Indian Canyon

Aimee Semple McPherson Castle

On Thursday November 18, the Lake Elsinore Historical Society sponsored a tour of the fabulous home built by Aimee Semple McPherson overlooking Lake Elsinore.  Built in 1929, it was her "get-away" home for about 10 years.  Recently, the Foursquare Church (which she founded) purchased and restored the house.  It is truly a site to see, and definitely a landmark around Elsinore.  Here are a few pics:

Exterior shot of the front of the castle

 Detail of the Great Room ceiling

The Great Room looking into the solarium


Welcome all!  This is my new blog dedicated to the history, the sites, and the history-related goings-on around Riverside County.  Please feel free to have fun with this - I think I will.  I will post the various things that I've done, plus anything else that may come up.  Take care!!