Here in Palm Springs there's a huge connection to the movie industry dating back to the silent film days. Hundreds of celebrities and creative people connected with the entertainment world have lived here or maintained vacation homes over the years. One of them was Walt Disney who had two homes in the desert.
His love of nature, the old west, horses and polo were some of the big attractions for him as well as the chance to escape the studio and relax in a quiet place.
His one home is located on S. Palm Canyon and another in the exclusive Smoke Tree Ranch complex about a mile east of there. According to the book Palm Springs Confidential, he and Lillian actually preferred the Canyon home. Close by is a wonderful botannical gardens called Moorten's. Just south of downtown and within walking distance of Disney's home, it is open to the public . Walt was friendly with the Moorten family and when he was designing DL he approached them for assistance in landscaping Frontierland.
Palm Springs has also been home since 1973 to Harrison "Buzz" Price, 83, a now semi-retired consultant who did the feasibility studies, market analysis and site selection for Disneyland in Anaheim. A recent article in the local Desert Sun had a story on Price and he shared a memory of Walt.
He told about him approaching the Homeowners' Board in Smoke Tree in the early '60s about purchasing a huge vacant corner lot adjacent to the Ranch. The property sits directly on Highway 111 which is the main street through downtown. Disney felt this would be a great opportunity for the homeowners to build and lease a shopping center and share in the profits it would generate while paying for maintenance on the ranch. His idea was turned down and the lot sat vacant for quite a few years until someone else bought it and did exactly what Walt wanted to do. It has been a thriving center for years with a major supermarket and drug store, banks, service stations, post office, restaurants, retail stores and cafes. Those residents certainly missed the boat on that opportunity.
Smoke Tree Ranch was recently listed as one of the top 10 "great escapes" in the world. With 85 homes and 57 guest cottages it retains its exclusivity. You never see a property go on the real estate market in there. The only way a new resident can obtain a home is through referral.