Cabot's Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs.
PHOTOGRAPH BY DANIELA STALLINGER
Best Home Turned Museum
Adventurer, artist, writer, and entrepreneur Cabot Yerxa came to homestead in Desert Hot Springs in 1913. While digging a well, he discovered the hot mineral springs that eventually transformed the area, which he nicknamed Miracle Hill, into a modern spa resort destination.
In his day, however, the desert was no vacation, and there were no luxuries. Over the years, Yerxa, who was born in 1885 on the Sioux Reservation in the Dakota Territories, chronicled the lives of the rough-and-tumble fellas who dug wells, battled rattlesnakes, and constructed the cabins and roads that in 1963 became the city of Desert Hot Springs.
Yerxa’s art, handiwork, and souvenirs from his travels are all on display in the Hopi-style pueblo he built by hand over 24 years; he died at age 83 before its completion. Today, the massive structure is the nucleus of Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, which welcomes visitors to tour its 35 rooms, each one filled with a trove of Native American art and artifacts — including a sepia-toned 1924 Edward S. Curtis photograph of a Cahuilla woman holding a basket atop her head standing barefoot at the edge of a palm tree–shaded stream in Palm Canyon — and memorabilia of early desert homesteader life. One fascinating exhibit was inspired by his friendship with Semu Haute, an Indigenous artist who gifted him with a statue he named “Ah-ah-ota,” which translates to “two-faced white man.”
The museum grounds also include the towering Waokiye sculpture, which was carved from a single sequoia redwood, as well as the Pueblo Art Gallery and museum store.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY COACHELLA VALLEY HISTORY MUSEUM
Coachella Valley History Museum.
Best Place to Step Back in Time
You can learn a lot at the little Coachella Valley History Museum. Located in downtown Indio, the campus includes several structures and exhibits. The 1926 Smiley-Tyler House, for example, showcases the Indigenous Cahuilla people and the importance of water and agriculture to the growth of the region. It also features a collection of Mexican folk art, including textiles, pottery, costumes, and wooden toys.
The restored 1909 Indio Schoolhouse has rows of original desks with slate boards for writing lessons, and the California Date History Museum offers insight into the area’s oldest cultivated crop. Visitors can also explore a blacksmith shop with original equipment, a submarine with an evaporative cooling cabin, and even the latest work of local artists in Pioneer Hall.