Cabot Yerxa stands in front of his sprawling adobe-style compound.
PHOTO COURTESY PALM SPRINGS HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Of all the desert’s oddities, none is perhaps as quirky as Cabot’s Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs, constructed by world-traveler-turned-homesteader Cabot Yerxa between 1941 and 1965. Abandoned after his death and taken up by squatters, the historic home was passed from the city to preservationists dedicated to protecting its unique Hopi-inspired architecture.
Businessman. Artist. Activist. Explorer. These words are commonly used to describe Yerxa, who, at age 30, began his homesteading journey on 160 acres in what is now Desert Hot Springs. He dubbed it Miracle Hill, says Irene Rodriguez, the museum’s executive director. The moniker nods to his discovery of naturally hot and cold mineral waters on the property. He built this 5,000-square-foot structure near the home he shared with wife, Portia, as a museum to house his collections — souvenirs from his travels, Native American artifacts, and his own art. The passion project would open to the public in 1950 but remain in a constant state of construction.
“There is no place … just like this place… anywhere near this place … so this must be the place.”
Yerxa used reclaimed materials from his original homestead and those of abandoned cabins he purchased to dismantle for parts. He used lumber, adobe, and bricks that he shaped himself and dried in the sun. Rodriguez points to other vernacular materials like telephone poles and parts of a tree.
The pueblos has a dizzying 35 rooms, 65 doors, and 150 windows. A 22-foot totem of Waokiye, an American Indian carved from redwood by sculptor Peter Toth, was placed here in the ’70s and is now one of the garden’s most defining features.
VISIT THE MUSEUM
Cabot’s Pueblo Museum is open year-round. Hours are reduced during the summer (June through September), so check the website before you go. Self-guided tours are 30 minutes and accessible through a link provided on arrival. cabotsmuseum.org