Architecture in Rancho Mirage

The history of architecture in Rancho Mirage is primarily the history of residential development.  Before the first country clubs, homes were mostly agricultural ranches.  Rancho Mirage takes its name from an earlier subdivision where Magnesia Falls Cove now stands.

In the late 1930s, a few Spanish-style and adobe homes were built as part of the ‘Rancho Mirage’ subdivision. Early homeowners included actor Frank Morgan (the ‘Wizard of Oz’) whose home still stands.

WWII halted growth until the late 1940s, when entrepreneur and entertainment lawyer A. Ronald Button bought 400 acres, including the subdivision, and started building hundreds of homes. In the mid 1950s Button partnered with media personality Art Linkletter to further expand Rancho Mirage. The duo sold the remaining lots to other developers who continued to build through the 1960s.

Post-war, guest ranches included the infamous Desert Air ‘Fly-In’ hotel (now the Omni Rancho Las Palmas) and the White Sun Guest Ranch.  Thunderbird Ranch opened in 1947 with accommodations in western-style ranch cottages.  Horse-riding and chuckwagon breakfasts were the main attractions.  In the 1950s, other hotels were built including the celebrity owned ‘Whispering Waters’ and 'The Casbah'.

In 1950, Thunderbird Ranch became Thunderbird Country Club, thanks to the vision of amateur golfer and entrepreneur Johnny Dawson. It opened as an 18-hole golf course and club in 1951. In 1952, Tamarisk Country Club debuted. Both clubs introduced the concept of building homes on fairways. A new style of desert modernist architecture embraced the panoramic views of fairways and mountains.

1937 Van Pelt & Lind, Magnesia Falls Cove

1938 Frank Morgan Residence, Magnesia Falls Cove

1938 Sahara Road Residence, Magnesia Falls Cove

1948 Ronald Button Ad for Magnesia Falls Cove

1957 Braemar Townhouses by John C Lindsay

1957 Firestone Residence by William Pereira

1960 Maranz Residence by Val Powelson

1965 Dillman Residence by C H Barlund

1970 Dennis Residence by Patten & Wild

Photo: Jim Riche

Photo: Jim Riche

Photo: Jim Riche

Photo: Jim Riche