One of the most historic sites in Palm Desert is the enormous figure-eight pool designed by Tommy Tomson for the Shadow Mountain Club in the mid-1940s.
Tomson, born in Janesville, Ohio, came to Los Angeles in the 1920s with the intent of becoming a film star. When that didn’t pan out, he taught himself to become a landscape architect. His first major commission was designing the landscape for Santa Anita Racetrack in 1934.
He soon became the landscape designer for the stars, including Joan Crawford, Charles Boyer, and Henry Fonda. He joined his brothers-in-law, Cliff and Randall Henderson, on the Shadow Mountain Resort project, which laid the groundwork for what would become the city of Palm Desert.
Today this amazing swimming pool is still being enjoyed as part of the amenities of the Shadow Mountain Resort and Club.
The pool was planned to be astonishingly large, 135 feet long and at the extent of the interlocking circles, almost as wide. There was enjoyment for those participating in the aquatic events like water ballets, aquatic exhibitions and competitions as well as for onlookers.
Its wide, chubby snowman silhouette, was laid out to emphasize the views of the copper-hued foothills of the Santa Rosa mountains. The setting was enhanced by the ever-changing shadows from the mountains, which inspired the name of the club.
By the 1950s and ’60s, the resot attracted names like Bing Crosby ( who was named honorary mayor in 1958), Edgar Bergen, William (Hopalong Cassidy) Boyd, and Esther Williams. The pool area led to an array of entertainment including water ballets, diving and aquatic shows, fashion shows, and on-property movies
In 1961, Shadow Mountain opened the city’s first tennis courts.
There is a multitude of ways to learn more about Palm Springs, which turned 82 in 2020. 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 corresponds with today.
For more information, visit pshistoricalsociety.org, or visit their location at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive.