A Home for Chief Executives
Centered between Palm Springs and Palm Desert in the heart of the Coachella Valley, Rancho Mirage has earned the moniker “Home of the Presidents.” Kennedy and Eisenhower both enjoyed golfing here, and Ford and Nixon also at some point owned houses in the city. Other presidents as well have paid visits relaxing around pools and otherwise relieving the stress from their jobs.
Rancho Mirage lies east of the folds of the Santa Rosa Mountains. It’s a bit more bucolic than its northern neighbor Palm Springs. Bighorn Sheep sometimes come down from the hills and wander through yards to the delight of the residents. They also can be found grazing along the fairways of the championship golf course that grace the city.
The last census recorded a population of just over 17,000. Rancho Mirage incorporated in 1973. It was fashioned from 5 small developments tagged “the cove communities.” They were Palmas, Magnesia, Desert, Thunderbird, and Tamarisk. At the time, the population amounted to a little over 3,000.
The city has 12 golf courses. Thunderbird was the first one developed in 1946 as a resort catering to business people and celebrities. The other “cove communities” also rose as adjuncts to golf resorts. Additional courses were added over the years.
Annenbergs Build Famed Estate
Rancho Mirage became famous as a celebrity playground after World War II. Entertainers such as Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Ginger Rodgers, and Bob Hope came to golf and relax. Famed philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg built a magnificent estate that they called “Sunny lands” that they filled with their art collection. The sprawling grounds which include a private golf course have served as a retreat for Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan. President Ford enjoyed the region so much that he bought his own house nearby which he lived in until his death in 2006.
Betty Ford selected the city as the site for her renowned clinic. The Betty Ford Clinic helps patients recover from addiction.
Rancho Mirage is a low density city with less than 600 people per square mile. Median household income in the city is almost $80,000 making it one of the wealthiest areas in the state. The largest employer in the city is the Eisenhower Medical Center. Next comes the Agua Caliente Casino. It ranks as the city’s most popular tourist attraction.