1930, Fred Clatworthy and his wife at their home at the top of West Ramon Road, Palm Springs.

Explore Palm Springs: Selling A View

Developer John Robertson had visions of grandeur in selling prime downtown land in 1936, but the plan just suddenly disappeared.

Renee Brown History

1930, Fred Clatworthy and his wife at their home at the top of West Ramon Road, Palm Springs.
From 1930, Fred Clatworthy and his wife at their home at the top of West Ramon Road in Palm Springs.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PALM SPRINGS HISTORICAL SOCIETY

In September of 1936, John Robertson, a capitalist from Pueblo, Colorado and Beverly Hills, California, purchased 330 acres of land from Fred Payne Clatworthy that extended north from the base of Tahquitz Canyon to the O’Donnell golf course in Palm Springs.

Clatworthy, a Palm Springs villager, was also a world famous autochrome photographer. He worked for National Geographic magazine, and built his family home at the top of West Ramon Road, on a spot of land nestled against Mt. San Jacinto that possessed a magnificent view of Palm Springs below.

Robertson not only purchased Clatworthy’s acreage but he also invested in another 320 acres east of the Field Club that was located at the northeast corner of Ramon Road and Sunrise Way. A Desert Sun article published Sept. 25, 1936, announced the sale of the Clatworthy property, and the article noted the real estate development proposed by Robertson had the remarkable possibility of becoming one of the most fascinating developments in the city to date.

Much of the property that he purchased overlooked and paralleled the downtown section of Palm Springs. Robertson believed that there would be a strong demand for hillside residences in the future.

His initial plan was to subdivide 40 acres at the base of Tahquitz Canyon. He hired local builder, John Miller, to construct roads, and to develop a water supply for each individual building site. The developer was reported in the Desert Sun article to have ample capital on hand to make the necessary investment in the infrastructure needed to make his vision a reality.

However, for some reason not known today the development was never built and the property was broken up into smaller parcels and sold.

There is a multitude of ways to Explore Palm Springs, which turned 75 in 2013. One of the more intriguing methods is by exploring Palm Springs history. The Palm Springs Historical Society will share a story whose time and place corresponds with today.

The Palm Springs Historical Society is located at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Visit www.pshistoricalsociety.org for more information.