The B-Bar-H Ranch in Desert Hot Springs once touted itself as “a fine hotel without the tinsel”. And yet it was Tinseltown that helped put the rustic guest ranch on the map.
After its opening to the public in 1937, celebrities like Mary Pickford, Bing Crosby, Tyrone Power, Lionel and John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Gary Cooper, and Marlene Dietrich signed the guest book to enjoy the 240 acres of land flanked by majesties mountains, rolling sand dunes, sagebrush, and cactus, and natural hot mineral springs.
Lucien Hubbard, who received the first Academy Award for Best Picture (Wings) in 1927, purchased the land that same year along with his son-in-law, Charles Bender, from the Southern Pacific Land Co. For the next 10 years, B-Bar-H Ranch, using the owners’ initials, hosted guests “by invitation only.”
The walled and gated property recently hit the market for $999,000 and markets itself as a dream retreat, bed and breakfast, or resort among its possibilities.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY PALM SPRINGS HISTORIAL SOCIETY
From December 1949, the ranch was surrounded by desert beauty.
History shows it once was home to cattle, poultry, and many citrus and date trees. Hubbard, an expert horseman, was a perfect example to the stars of how to escape the craziness of Hollywood for the wide open spaces of the desert. They could immerse themselves in daily activities like picnics, campfires, riding parties, and rodeo competitions, while Saturday nights brought Western-style dining in the recreation hall and dancing to live bands.
Palm Springs wasn’t far behind in promoting the cowboy mentality. Starting in 1934, the annual Desert Circus marched on for several decades. Lasting a full week, the celebration included rodeos and culminated in the Desert Circus Parade featuring equestrian groups, marching bands, and decorated floats. Everyone got into the act, dressing in Western gear for the entire week. Caught without the proper attire, attendees were “arrested” by lady deputies working for the “sheriff” and taken before a kangaroo court judge, who fined them anywhere from $10 to $100. The monies benefitted local charities.
In addition to Desert Circus, there were other parades and rodeos, such as the Palm Springs Mounted Police Rodeo and Rodeo Parade.
The B-Bar-H Ranch has morphed into several variations since its heyday. What was a VFW Post with a bar remains. The compound offers a single-story house boasting 6 bedrooms and 8 baths covering 5,000 square feet.
There are private patios, courtyards, and fountains. One of three fire places inside anchor a wood-beam living room that takes you to a tile dining area. The billiards room and master suite are accented by salmon-colored walls. In addition there are two kitchens a studio, and indoor and outdoor spa tubs.
A wood-beam ceiling adorns the living room anchored by one of three fireplaces.