In 1946 Los Angeles architect Hank Gogerty purchased a few hundred acres of desert in Rancho Mirage. There he sculpted and groomed a pair of beautifully manicured grass runways shaped like a pair of emerald scissors. The longest was 3,000 feet and occasionally used for polo. By 1951 he heralded the opening of his Desert Air Hotel, a true oasis complete with individual cottages, pool, a dining room, and a fabulous watering hole that attracted pilots from near and far. During its heyday, there could be as many as a 100 visiting airplanes on holiday weekends. Many belonged to Hollywood celebrities, politicians, royalty, and other notables seeking escape. Like so many other airports, Palm Desert Airpark fell victim to escalating real-estate prices and was purchased by land developers in 1968.
But the destiny of Rancho Mirage changed long before the demise of the Airpark when Thunderbird Ranch (later named Thunderbird Country Club) was developed by golf promoter Johnny Dawson and a group of investors that included Texas oilman D. B. McDaniel, Colorado governor Dan Thornton, and Hollywood celebrities Bob Hope, Randolph Scott, Phil Harris, Desi Arnaz, and Ralph Kiner. The same successful formula was followed a year later, when Tamarisk Country Club was developed by San Francisco real estate and theater magnate Joseph Blumenfeld and a group of 65 investors, including Hollywood notables Jack Benny, George Burns, Danny Kaye, Sol Lessor, and the Marx Brothers.
Recognized for elegant ambience and a unique luxury lifestyle, Rancho Mirage evolved into world-renown exclusive gated communities and beautiful golf courses, and became known as ‘The Playground of Presidents.
The city boasts world-class resorts, including the Ritz-Carlton, the valley’s only five-star lodging property, Other notable resorts include the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort, The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa, Mission Hills Country Club, the home to the LPGA /ANA Inspiration golf tournament, and Agua Caliente Casino and Resort Spa, and The River, a destination for dining, shopping, and entertainment.
Rancho Mirage is home to Eisenhower Medical Center, Hazelden Betty Ford Center, Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, The Tolerance Education Center, the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, and Sunnylands’ Gardens and Visitor Center.
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