By Denise Ortuno-Neil
It is easy to take seeing palm trees in the Coachella Valley for granted. They are everywhere, and not only are a visual staple of our beautiful desert but also of Southern California itself. Imagine Palm Canyon without palm trees lining the famous street. It was so at one point, but thankfully through Ruth Hardy’s vision 66 years ago, Palm Canyons palm trees stand proud in downtown Palm Springs.
Ruth Hardy was one of those female pioneers of Palm Springs back in the day. Along with the likes of Pearl McCallum, Nellie Coffman, Julia Carnell, and others who helped turn Palm Springs into the world famous resort destination that it is today.
Hardy was a city councilwoman for Palm Springs in the 1940’s. She also had a hand in the Ingleside Inn’s fame. She purchased the Birge estate and converted into a 20 room hotel for exclusive cliental including, Ava Gardner, Greta Garbo, Howard Hughes, Elizabeth Taylor and many more. She operated the hotel for decades until her death in 1965. Ten years later, the hotel was purchased by Mel Haber who turned it into the iconic Ingleside Inn.
When Hardy was a Palm Springs City councilwoman, she came up with the idea to line the city’s downtown street Palm Canyon with palm trees. The city embraced Hardy’s vision and in the summer of 1949, 300 palm trees were planted up and down Palm Canyon. The palm tree implementation was part of the city’s $950,000 renovation of downtown Palm Springs.
The trees selected were Washingtonia Filifera (Desert Fan Palms) and Washingtonia Robusta (Mexican Fan Palms), 150 of each. The Mexican Fan Palms are tall and thin, where the Desert Fan Palms have more girth and the skirt effect, which is made when the trees fronds die and adhere themselves to the trees trunk. Palm trees can live well past 100 years and are able to withstand high winds and even fire. Indian Canyons in South Palm Springs has the largest collection of Desert Fan Palms in the world.
In the fall of 1949, the city dedicated the palm trees in an official ceremony.
The palm trees on Palm Canyon help to usher in visitors to not only Palm Springs, but into the Coachella Valley. They serve as ambassadors to our gorgeous desert and still stand tall after all of these years. Thank you Ruth Hardy!
For more information about Ruth Hardy, visit The Palm Springs Historical Society www.pshistoricalsociety.org