By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Made in the Shade
Just down the hill from the Spring’s sauna is the Hacienda Hot Springs Inn, a welcoming compound owned by William Dailey, owner of Dailey Rare Books in Los Angeles. He bought the place almost three years ago and spent the first 18 months restoring it. The grounds are shaded by a tall mesquite and several ficus, and when I was there, the new orange trees were ripe with fruit. Dailey’s catholic taste gives the Hacienda an omni-rustic feeling that nicely complements the scene’s prevailing austerity. The rooms and common areas are filled with books (all for sale), Mission settles, old hickory chairs and vintage Seven-Up crates filled with eclectic vinyl. The rec room’s veranda has an exterior barbecue and a circa-1940 Wolf Range that has a giant griddle on it, upon which Bill welcomes guests to make morning pancakes.
An interesting feature of the Hacienda is Dailey himself. He’s collected a lot of historical material about the city: post cards, pictures, geological surveys, written stories from old-timers, anything he can get his hands on. He loves working on his Desert Hot Springs bibliography, making him an unofficial town historian.
On several drives, Dailey provided a comprehensive lay of the land. We saw the site of the first “public plunge,” Coffee’s, torn down in the ’60s. There were remnants of old Desert Hot Springs — spas like the Highlander, which are a little rundown, but cheap, and have a loyal crowd. We saw some crack-era desert vibes, like a dude installing 20-inch rims on his gold Honda with a black pit bull standing by. Then we passed the Monte Carlo, which used to be a free-love joint. “In the dark days, that was a common subtext of the spa scene,” Dailey said. “Even when I opened, a couple of guys checked in, looked around and confused me by asking, ‘So, where’s the action?’ ”
But mostly a drive around reveals renewal: a half-dozen spas bought by Koreans; a half-dozen more bought by restoration-minded Angelenos; Marmol Radzinger’s demonstration prefab architectural home on a hill at the edge of town. Even the Christian nudists are in on the action: The former Kismet Lodge, whose sign bears two crossed scimitars, has recently become the Living Waters, an attempt to take agape down the “clothing optional” road.
Beyond the spas, however, unrestrained development looms. “The only problem with Desert Hot Springs,” Dailey said, “is the city itself.” The spas don’t interest the Chamber of Commerce, he said. “This place is a boomtown, and all they care about is turning the place into subdivisions, while turning a huge profit.” Over at the Water District offices, a map on the wall showed the spreading skein of main lines that are turning the desert into one-, two- and three-thousand-tract-home communities. “And that map is outdated,” Dailey said. In Desert Hot Springs, the usual cycle of gentrification-beachhead followed by big developers is accelerated, almost simultaneous. Soon, the town’s first Starbucks will shine its beacon over Palm Drive, the main drag. Get to Desert Hot Springs soon.?