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In Place: The Desert

Coco Crisp of the Oakland A’s is just the latest in a decades-long line of celebrities with getaway homes in the desert. The centerfielder’s spectacular compound on nearly five acres in Rancho Mirage, recently listed by our Rachelle Rosten and Sally Forster Jones at $9,995,000, includes a palatial 17,870 square foot main residence, a private lake with canoes, multiple arbor-shaded entertaining pavilions, and a scaled-down baseball diamond with lighted scoreboard. It’s a far cry from when the enclave was first developed in 1924 for wealthy “gentleman farmers.”

Until the railway line made it from LA to Indio in 1876, the 45-mile-long Coachella Valley was … pretty deserted. Even after they laid out Palm Springs in 1887, the local population was mostly alfalfa, grapes, corn, figs, apricots, grapefruit, oranges and dates. Things changed in 1927, when the Desert Inn and Sanitarium converted to a resort hotel, and an affluent seasonal community was born. By the late 1920s, the Palm Springs was already a favorite destination for the rich and famous. Especially movie stars, whose contracts usually demanded they remain within two hours of the studio.

Nowadays, the once sleepy Coachella Valley is fueled by megawatt star power and tourist allure. It’s a mecca for casinos, resort hotels and natural mineral water spas, and one of the world’s premier golf locations with some 125 courses. Attractions include three national parks and one of the largest collections of Mid-Century architecture in the country. And it still grows tons of dates, citrus and table grapes.

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