The Mesa Neighborhood Organization

1823 – PRESENT

The first record of white men in the Palm Springs area was the 1823-24 expedition of Brevet Captain Jose Romero. Captain Romero led an expedition through the San Gorgonio Pass in search of a route to the Colorado River. His party stopped to rest at some natural hot springs, which they named Agua Caliente.

29 years later in 1853, Lt. R. S. Williamson and a geologist, W.P. Blake, with the Smithsonian Institution, were sent by the Federal government to survey land across the West for a possible railroad route from the Mississippi to the Pacific. In his detailed topographical report, Blake described the oasis of palm trees that shaded mineral springs flowing into a pond, which he called Palm Springs.

Between 1857 and 1877 several stagecoach lines traversed the San Gorgonio pass and most stopped at the Agua Caliente springs for water. The most influential was the Bradshaw Stage Line, which ran from 1863-1877. The Bradshaw line not only stopped at Agua Caliente but also had an adobe station built there. Jack Summers was the agent between 1865 and 1877, making him and his wife the first white settlers of Agua Caliente, soon to be Palm Springs.

The railroad finally made it through the pass in 1876. However, Agua Caliente was still very remote and few people knew of its existence. To establish Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way, the company was granted alternating sections of land for ten miles on either side of the tracks. The railroad received odd-numbered sections while the even-numbered ones remained government property. On May 15th 1876, 880 acres of what is now Downtown Palm Springs, including Tahquitz Canyon, was set aside as the Agua Caliente Indian reservation. The next year, 48 sections – a little over 30 thousand acres of the government land – were given to the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians.

John G. McCallum became the first permanent settler when he traveled to Palm Valley in 1884 and immediately knew this is where he wanted to relocate his family, including an ailing son.

Judge John Guthrie McCallum
The first white settler of “Palm Springs”

The place was known by the name of "Palm Valley" until 1890 when Harry McCallum referred in a letter to his post office address in "Palm Springs." In 1887, 320 acres of the 6,000 purchased by John Guthrie McCallum, where surveyed into a township that today comprises downtown Palm Springs.

B. B. Barney purchased 600 acres from McCallum and built the first subdivision, called The Garden of Eden, at the present-day site of the Canyon Country Club. Streets where named for Adam, Eve and other early biblical characters. By 1888 Land sales where booming.

1921 – PRESENT

Edmond Fulford, a successful Los Angeles businessman had a vision of building a unique community in a secluded Palm Springs location. He established the Palm Canyon Mesa on the lowest slopes of the San Jacinto Mountains in a caldera that provides neighborhood homes protection from the desert winds. Fulford’s dream was of an exclusive gated community that was entered through a common main entrance. The plan never came to fruition as Mr. Fulford died suddenly in 1936. One remnant, the gatehouse, still remains between South Palm Canyon and Mesa Drive on El Portal and is now considered an iconic representation of the Mesa Neighborhood. With the plan established, other developers, including architect Alfred Heineman, moved in to continued development in this beautiful area.

The Mesa also resides on the east flank of Tahquiz Canyon. A ruggedly beautiful canyon that leaves a stark impression from the huge gash the crag produces. Tahquitz is steeped in Indian folklore. According to this legend, Tahquitz was a man of great power. Created by Mukat, the legendary creator of the Cahuilla Indians. It is said that he craved human flesh and beautiful women. When people disappeared on the mountain they where reputed to have been carried off by Tahquitz and eaten. He speaks through lightning and thunder. The canyon is the dark shadow in the upper right hand side of this Google Earth Photo.

Today the Mesa is a unique and eclectic collection of architectural styles producing a beautiful neighborhood nestled in an awe-inspiring setting. The diversity does not stop there. The individuals who occupy the homes are as unique as the architecture, with occupations and interest spanning every conceivable endeavor. There is one other unique attribute to the Mesa. We are truly a neighborhood of friendly residents walking the streets every day and stopping often to enjoy each other’s company. We are glad you are visiting our virtual neighborhood and look forward to meeting you some day in our real neighborhood, close to the Garden of Eden on the East slops of the San Jacinto Mountains.

By Michael Slattery

The Mesa Neighborhood Organization
Palm Springs, California -
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