Explore Palm Springs: Fire Destroys El Mirador Hotel

Despite destruction, Desert Regional Hospital rebuilds tower, lobby

The El Mirador Hotel shown during its heyday in 1950. The hotel burned down in 1989.

Photo Courtesy of Palm Springs Historical Society


An early morning blaze lit up the desert sky on July 26, 1989, destroying the historic El Mirador Hotel and tower.

Opening in 1928, the hotel was a desert landmark for more than 60 years attracting the rich and famous to Palm Springs. It closed in 1973 and the buildings were boarded up.

Desert Hospital purchased the property and was using parts of it as a warehouse. The board of directors at the hospital had just approved $2 million for a renovation of the single remaining building and the tower just days before the fire.

At 12:15 a.m., flames were spotted and reported. Firefighters arrived shortly on the scene and fought to contain the fire to no avail. Thirty firefighters battled the blaze as the sun came up and temperatures rose. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries.

As the day wore on, temperatures soared to 113 degrees, while fire investigators and police prowled through the ruins looking for clues to what started the fire. There was an unconfirmed report that transients had been chased from the vacant building by hospital security a few days before and were seen at the structure the day of the fire.

CEO David Seeley was quoted in a Desert Sun article, “the El Mirador, like a phoenix will rise from the ashes.”

The hospital moved quickly to rebuild the tower and lobby using the 62-year-old blueprints. It reopened in 1991.

Today, the replicated tower and hotel lobby stand as the entrance to Desert Regional Hospital as well as being a much-loved Palm Springs landmark. 

There is a multitude of ways to learn more about Palm Springs, which turned 75 in 2013. One of the more intriguing methods is by exploring the city’s history.

The Palm Springs Historical Society will share a weekly story whose time and place corresponds with today.

The Palm Springs Historical Society is located at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive. For more information, visit www.pshistoricalsociety.org

Like what you're reading? Then "Like" us on Facebook and "follow" us on Twitter.

Add your comment:
Desert Guide

Related Articles

Lasers Light Up Fantasy Springs Bowling Center

Turn off the lights at Fantasy Springs Bowling Center at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, and one of America’s oldest recreational sports literally illuminates a whole new persona - laser bowling.

Where to Satisfy Your Fall Season Sweet Tooth in Greater Palm Springs

The calendar says fall has begun, and although the temperatures may not reflect it, restaurants in the Greater Palm Springs area have created that fall feeling with delectable desserts.

Palm Springs Weekend: Peter Frampton, Diana Ross, Cinema Diverse

Palm Springs Life helps plan out your weekend in Palm Springs and the desert resort cities with concerts, events, restaurants, nightlife, clubs and the world of entertainment only found in the desert.

Explore Palm Springs: La Plaza Shopping Center

Still a thriving shopping center, La Plaza breathes life into Palm Springs' downtown shopping district just as it has done for more than 70 years.

The Purple Room Audience May Recognize Shelagh Ratner's Voice First

Once she appears Sept. 20 at The Purple Room Restaurant & Stage in Palm Springs, it’s likely audience members will have an “aha!” moment upon hearing Shelagh Ratner’s voice.

Promotions + Contests

Cartoon Caption Contest

Cartoon Caption Contest

Each month, we provide a vintage 1950’s cartoon illustrated by Alice Rovinsky. You are invited to submit a caption or vote for your favorite caption.
Enter to Win A Celebrate Dance Experience!

Enter to Win A Celebrate Dance Experience!

Enter just once for a chance to win tickets to one of the second annual Palm Desert International Dance Festival performances.