Explore Palm Springs: Aerial Tramway is Christened

Dignitaries pay $1,000 each to make first ride to top of Mt. San Jacinto

Renee Brown History 0 Comments

PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY PALM SPRINGS HISTORICAL SOCIETY

On Sept. 12, 1963, 400 dignitaries came from all over the world to be part of the inaugural ride of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

They paid $1,000 each to take a breathtaking journey up the cliffs of Chino Canyon to the top of Mt. San Jacinto. Gov. Edmund Brown's wife, Bernice, christened the first tramcar by breaking a bottle of California sparkling wine on the side of the car.

The governor cut the ribbon as the Third Marine Aircraft Wing made two sweeps in a crisscross pattern over Mt. San Jacinto.

In the summer of 1935, Francis Crocker, was driving from Palm Springs to Banning when the electrical engineer longingly looked up at the snow-capped peak of Mt. San Jacinto and expressed his desire to be transported up "there where it's nice and cool."

To make his dream a reality, he enlisted the help of the co-manager of The Desert Inn, Earl Coffman. Planning began on not only the engineering aspect, but also the financing that was needed to get the project off the ground. Political roadblocks caused numerous disappointing setbacks. Plans were shelved both during World War II and the Korean conflict.

The project was an engineering challenge with the ingenious use of helicopters during the 26 months of construction. Helicopters flew over 23,000 missions carrying materials and workers to the five supporting towers that were erected.

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Twenty years later, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway was designated an historical engineering 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 story whose time and place correspond with today.

The Palm Springs Historical Society is located at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive.

Visit pshistoricalsociety.org.

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