Needles, CA

Snoopy’s brother Spike lives near Needles with his Cactus companion. As he said in Peanuts on October 12, 1993: “Life in the desert is exciting. Last night the sun went down and this morning the sun came up. There’s always something happening.”*

The Needles rock formation that lent its name to the city.

Needles was, and is, a railroad town

The Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad founded the town in 1883.

After the first station burned in 1906, ATSF built a new station, El Garces Hotel, and a Harvey House restaurant that was considered the jewel of the system.
Vehicle approach to El Graces today.
The hotel & restaurant were closed in 1949 and the building was totally abandoned in 1988. In 1999, the City purchased the building; in 2007, renovation was begun with the goal of reopening a hotel, shops, restaurant and train station. However, due to problems with loans on a municipal building and restrictions on use of federal funds, the private part of the project was abandoned.
The World War I memorial sits before a largely unused, beautiful building. In 2016, a waiting room for Amtrak passengers was created, open 11pm to 2am when the Southwest Chief passes through. There is also The El Garces Intermodal Transportation Facility which occupies a small part of the building. The park in front is often occupied by transients.

Needles is also on Historic Route 66

Traveling East to West on Route 66. the first city in California is Needles.
The Old Trails Inn used to greet travelers heading West on Route 66.
Today the remaining cabins are The Palms Apartments
The trains still roll through; tourists still travel Route 66; and the sun still goes down and comes up on Needles

*As a boy, Charles Schultz lived in Needles 1928-1930.

Bygone New Years Eve Tradition: Coachella Valley

Artist John Hilton burned paintings in bonfire in Box Canyon

According to Katherine Ainsworth’s 1978 biography of John Hilton, Maynard Dixon and Nicolai Fechin, both, advised Hilton to discard “unworthy” paintings. As noted in the biography as well as numerous newspaper and magazine articles, Hilton invited friends to a dramatic annual party in Box Canyon (east of Mecca, CA) when he would throw his rejects onto a bonfire at the stoke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. As the years passed, the party grew and others added to the bonfire, but Hilton reserved his painting burning for last.

One particularly memorable New Year’s was 1940/41 when the Los Angeles Times printed a photo of him tossing a painting into the fire.

L.A. Times, Jan. 3, 1941

Immediately to the right on the page was an article by Ed Ainsworth:

After several years the parties were discontinued; this may have even been the last, as a year later the US would be at war. Of course today, one would need a permit for such a fire, which the County Fire Department would never issue!

Box Canyon Road winds up from the Coachella Valley floor through the Canyon to Shaver’s Valley and on to Interstate 10. The Canyon is protected under the 1964 Wilderness Act and has not changed except for some modern road improvements and erosion by Mother Nature.
Fragrant Morning by John Hilton (one that wasn’t burned!)

Happy New Year!

La Quinta, California

Someone decided to add some holiday cheer to the agaves in the median on Calle Sinaloa!
Originally the La Quinta Hotel, which opened Dec. 29, 1926.
The Resort is very proud that Frank Capra stayed there & every year turns it into “BedfordFalls” for the holidays. However, the citrus tree in the background makes it clear this is the California desert.
The Resort tree 2019.

Have Happy & Healthy Holidays!

More Coachella

City Hall

Coachella City Hall, circa 1949. You can see the edge of the Fire Station on the right
City Hall at the Holidays 2019

The City was incorporated in December 1946 and the City Hall was dedicated in October 1949. Over the years, it not only housed the City government, but also the post office, police department, justice court, and the public library. Today, City Council Chambers and administration occupy the entire building.

Fire Station

City of Coachella

Photo from an early 1940s Chamber of Commerce pamphlet (no copyright notice)
Renovated fire station, now used by the City, December 2019

The Fire Station was built on land donated by the Coachella Land & Water Co. to Riverside County, circa 1905, when the town was being platted. When the City was incorporated in 1946, one of its first actions was to ask the County to donate the land to the new City. Next door to the site of the Fire Station, the new City Hall was built; to the north of City Hall and the Fire Station, approximately half of the parcel continued to be used as a park and is today Veterans’ Memorial Park.