Most locals know that Desert Regional Hospital used to be the famous El Mirador Hotel, world-renowned playground of the rich and famous. But fewer remember the role it played during World War II.
As one of the newly incorporated City of Palm Springs’ most important contributions to that endeavor, Palm Springs businessman and developer P.T. Stevens built the Spanish-revival hotel at a cost of nearly $1 million, designed by Los Angeles architects Walker & Eisen. The U.S. Army purchased the building in 1941 for $420,000, with an additional $4 million paying for the surrounding land and the reconstruction needed to transform the building into the 1,500-bed Torney General Hospital (named in honor of deceased Surgeon General George H. Torney). There, soldiers injured in the Pacific Theater could recover in the warm, sunny and dry climate of the western-most part of the Sonoran Desert.
Planeloads of the wounded were flown into the local Air Transport Command Base and then transferred by ambulance to Torney General; others arrived by train at the Palm Springs Train Depot, located off Highway 111 at Tipton Road, and ambulanced to the new facility. Between 1,200 – 1,500 doctors, nurses, corpsmen and general helpers operated the Hospital – including many of the German and Italian prisoners of war interned nearby – to provide initial recovery care, physical and occupational therapies and crucial educational opportunities for prospering in a changed world.
By supplying our wounded men with the care and forward-thinking needed for maximum recovery, the Torney General superbly fulfilled its wartime mission before its natural progression into our current, and still iconic, Desert Regional Hospital – the hotel that became a life-saver.
There is a multitude of ways to Explore Palm Springs, which turns 81 in 2019.
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 often corresponds with today.
The Palm Springs Historical Society is located at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Visit pshistoricalsociety.org for more information.