Although a century has passed since her father planted the first fruit trees at the foot of Mount San Jacinto, Pearl McCallum McManus’ influence in the Coachella Valley continues to enhance our quality of life today.
Among the first to understand and imagine the possibilities of a gracious life in our desert setting, Pearl’s father was visionary. But he would not survive to see the valley’s transformation into the dreamy irrigated landscape he imagined. He did,however,firmly inculcate that vision into his daughter Pearl,and she spent the remainder of her long life bringing it to fruition.
With lush green golf courses and world-class resorts situated today from one end of the valley to the other, it’s difficult to imagine in their place endless dunes and scrub. Yet it was in this sand-swept setting that Pearl and her husband Austin McManus took the fearless step of commissioning Lloyd Wright, the son of Frank Lloyd Wright, to build the Oasis Hotel.
Situated at the corner of what is now Tahquitz Canyon and Palm Canyon Way in Palm Springs, the couple’s project was built of slip form concrete, which ensured a continuous, cast-in-place structure. When completed, the Oasis was the first architecturally designed building in the desert.
Suddenly, the adjacent Desert Inn’s tent and clapboard housing looked inferior. It was a situation that spurred Nellie Coffman, the inn’s owner, into a massive building project in order to compete. Thereafter, the standard for hotels was forever lifted from rough camping grounds to proper hotels.
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