Crossroads & Intersections holds a magnifying glass to a Palm Springs roadmap, revealing a matrix of history depicted in street names. As you peer through this glass you will discover – scattered between street names inspired by recreational sports and Hollywood celebrities – references to the history and culture of the Cahuilla people.
Following the establishment of transportation systems through this region in the mid- to late 1800s, non-Indian groups began settling in Cahuilla territory. Palm City, an early name for the burgeoning settlement adjacent to the Agua Caliente Hot Spring, emerged as a result of the land’s perceived agricultural potential. Marketed as an agricultural paradise by land speculators and syndicates, early street names reflected the town’s early focus: Lemon Street, Orange Street, and Vine Street were among these. Over time, these ambitions would falter due to drought and an unreliable water supply.
But as time passed, the town now known as Palm Springs gained fame as a health resort. Utilized for centuries by the Cahuilla for the purpose of health and healing, the reputation of the hot spring’s recuperative powers spread. Drawn similarly to the region’s dry air, favorable climate, lush canyons, and starkly beautiful landscape, health-seekers found in Palm Springs an idyllic Shangri-la in which to rest and heal. A new economy was born.
As a result of this paradigm shift, the original street names of the village became less and less relevant. On July 4, 1930, the Desert Sun newspaper announced that many of Palm Springs' street names had been changed.
Few details are known as to why certain street names were selected. We do know that the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce, a de facto local government prior to city incorporation in 1938, at one time presented a petition signed by “the proper number” of local residents to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors for approval; and according to one tribal source, streets were renamed based on whose homes they led to. However, records documenting the precise criteria for selecting the street names we know today remain elusive. Attributing street names to specific individuals and Cahuilla cultural influences therefore remains a fascinating study, based largely on an examination of personal achievements and human relationships within a specific window of time.
Crossroads & Intersections is not an exhaustive study of Palm Springs street names. Rather, it is an opportunity to examine and pay homage to the original inhabitants of Palm Springs, whose names and cultural associations continue to bear relevance today.
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