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Our Mission

The Cathedral City Historical Society

collects, preserves, researches and interprets the heritage of our city.

Tiny Henry in front of a vintage car


from Zuma "Tiny" Henry


. . . to our Cathedral City Historical Society (CCHS) website.

Experience the diverse history of Cathedral City, California,

from before we first became a town to recent times.

We are always adding to and expanding our

collection of photos and stories.

So, watch this space.

Thank you for visiting!


Early Days of the City

There was nothing but desert between Indio and Palm Springs.

Highway 111 was rarely traveled and Date Palm Drive did not exist when we first moved here in 1934.  My husband and I used to walk along Hwy 111 at night — it was deserted except for the rattlesnakes.

Mrs. Paul Clark

A founder of the first local newspapers

in Cathedral City and Palm Desert

(From an article in The Desert Sun)

Photos: The famous Cathedral City Arch, which once stood on Broadway (now, Hwy 111).

1925 - Prelude to a City

In the year 1925, Glen Plumley contacted his friends George Allen and Jack Grove, who had a real estate office on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.  Plumley's idea was for them to purchase the east one-half of section 33, township 4 south, range 5 east from the Southern Pacific Land Company and subdivide it into small lots.  Allen and Grove had a good friend, Mr. M.V. Van Fleet, who joined the three in the purchase.

The four gentlemen subdivided the one-half section, drilled a successful well and added a storage tank with a delivery line.


Ultimately, the subdivision was named after the canyon south of the proposed town.  The four main streets were named after the four sub-dividers Plumley, Allen, Grove and Van Fleet with the exception of Highway 111, which was named Broadway.

Thus Cathedral City was named!

On January 1, 1927, Cathedral City was placed on the market for sale with an invitation for a free barbecue and free bus transportation from Palm Springs to entice bidders for the subdivision parcels.


George Allen was asked why they added the word "City" to the name; he replied that he did not know but felt it to be very optimistic!

Written by Bob  Hillery, Cathedral City historian

Image: Cathedral City Beginnings by Artist Ron Backer. 

Colonel Washington

and Cathedral Canyon

The name Cathedral Canyon first appeared on the U.S. Geological Survey Indio Special Map of 1904.  Local folklore traces the name back to 1855, when Colonel Henry Washington made the first survey of Colorado Desert land under contract with the U.S. Surveyor General.

While standing high on the east side of Cathedral Canyon water wash, he commented that the rock formations resembled a European cathedral.  The name Cathedral Canyon was created.


1. Birth of a Name, oil on canvas, 2012, by Ron Backer.

Col. Washington discovers and names Cathedral Canyon.

2. Photo of Cathedral Canyon, 1926

Share Old Photos & Memorabilia

Do you have old photos,
scrapbooks, postcards, articles
or other memorabilia of Cathedral City?

Would you like to share them with others?
​Please contact us at

Email CCHS

or leave your information and a message via our Contact page.


The Cathedral City Historical Society

Our Goal:

Cathedral City

Historical Society Museum

Our goal is to establish a museum, where visitors may learn about our city, past and present.  Meanwhile, look for our exhibits around town.   Try the Cathedral City Public Library or the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce (Cathedral City office).

If you'd like to help preserve Cathedral City's past, please join us as a supporter (you'll find a form on our Contact page.)  Or make a donation, below.


Feel free to leave comments via our Contact Form, as well.  Now, enjoy your tour of Cathedral City's rich history.

The Cathedral City Historical Society

"Along that ribbon of highway through the Colorado Desert night. . ."

Interested in Preserving the Heritage of

Cathedral City?

Please consider making a tax-deductible

donation to the Cathedral City Historical Society.  (We are a 501.c.3.)

Your thoughtful contribution will directly further our work of collecting, preserving, researching and interpreting the heritage of our city.


Thank you!

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(This PayPal button will take you
to PayPal's secure website,
where you can make a donation,
even if you don't have a PayPal account.)​

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