idyllwild home tour

Head to “The Hill”

For 20 years, Idyllwild Area Historical Society has showcased homes that offer insight into the rustic lifestyle at 5,000 feet.

Julie Pendray Attractions, Current Digital, Home & Design

idyllwild home tour

Gain access to five cabin homes during the Idyllwild Home Tour on Sept. 17.

Cozy winters around wood fires and views of incense cedars are part of the old-world appeal that has drawn visitors for over a century to Idyllwild on Mt. San Jacinto. Cooler summers there inspired Native Americans to go up to gather wildflowers and acorns. A few cabins sprouted in the 1920s, followed by a housing spurt a decade later.

“The Hill,” as the town is known, became a magnet for anyone seeking fresh air and “down time,” kicking back on patios, watching jays. For 20 years, Idyllwild Area Historical Society has showcased homes that offer insight into the rustic lifestyle.

After a hiatus for the past two years due to the pandemic, Idyllwild Home Tour returns Sept. 17, featuring five cabins. Take a step back in time when you see “bachelors’ stoves” and vintage refrigerators, plus a hillside home that “defies gravity” and “an unusual bathroom arrangement” in cabins dating back as far as 80 years ago, plus more modern mountain residences.

idyllwild area historical society
Longtime resident Nanci Killingsworth is credited with finding many of the treasures among the pines over the years.“She's always looking for cabins with a historical background that have been beautifully preserved by their owners, and she also keeps an eye out for any structures of architectural significance or with a ‘wow’ factor,” says Idyllwild Area Historical Society president Charlotte Groty.

Among this year’s featured cabins is a tiny one from the 1920s, with some period furnishings. It has been enlarged, “seamlessly blending the old with the new,” according to the historical society. The original living area was small because “life was expected to be lived outdoors in the fresh air.”

A featured 4-bedroom cabin was built a decade later, probably by two miners. It’s on a steep hillside and houses the unique bathroom. The home now has a “theatrical, whimsical theme” and includes a vintage range and original cabinetry, plus a Zen meditation garden.

Another home on the tour is from the ‘30s and considered representative of the first era of residential growth in Idyllwild. Owners have preserved the original stove, linoleum, and cabinetry. There’s a bunkhouse, where residents could fall asleep to the sound of Strawberry Creek just below. The bark covering the log cladding has weathered in place for nearly 100 years. The fireplace is made of stones turned up during the foundation digging, and there are numerous wavy glass windows that have somehow survived a near century of storms, according to the historical society.


One modern home on the tour includes a Southwestern style “great room” and a “fabulous collection of Native American art.” The fireplace features an “exquisitely detailed” mantel over a river rock face. An “extraordinary back yard” created by the owner, a landscape designer, features walkways that connect local perennials, shrubs and trees.

Owners will be available in the houses to answer questions from tour guests.

“Homeowners love to talk about their homes, especially if they've done a lot of the work themselves,” says Groty. Docents inside each house will also be able to share historical information. None of the homes are for sale.

Rounding out the tour is a 1979 home that has been “transformed from unremarkable to edgy and innovative,” according to the historical society. The decor is black and white, with a brick foyer, as a contrast to nature. A sense of playfulness includes a horse trough bathtub and pub games downstairs.

The Home Tour is the major fundraiser for Idyllwild Area Historical Society and Museum, helping to preserve the group’s facility and archive, which includes other significant houses, such as the one used in the Elvis Presley movie, Kid Galahad.

Refreshments will be served throughout the day in the Village Garden on the museum grounds, where artists will display their work. Tickets are $20 per person and may be purchased on the day at the pop-up booth next to the Idyllwild Inn on Village Center Drive, starting at 9:30 a.m.

Tickets will also be available at the museum, 54470 N. Circle Drive. A 28-page illustrated booklet and a map, with directions will be provided with each ticket. Guests can visit the homes in any order. Valet parkers will help at each site.

For more information,  call 951-201-1400 or 951-808-3632.

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