The Story Behind the Wall

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By CV | May 14, 2014 at 11:34 pm

By Denise Ortuno Neil

It looks like it could be something reminiscent of a castle from long ago, or a wall guarding something of great value, or perhaps a look out to the vast desert valley below for a person with means to build it. In a way, the mysterious wall that sits on the foothill of San Jacinto just above the famed O’Donnell Golf Course is all of those things, and a precious part of Palm Springs history. It is the wall that Tom O’Donnell built.

Tom O’Donnell didn’t actually haul the materials up the hill and literally use his hands to build the iconic wall himself, but he did have it built out of his vision. Tom O’Donnell was an oilman man of great wealth who came to Palm Springs along with his wife in the 1920’s, lured like so many before him by the areas inviting serene beauty and warm weather that benefited his respiratory ailment .

O’Donnell spent his early time visiting Palm Springs at the Desert Inn, owned by one of the town’s most prominent pioneers, Nellie Coffman. O’Donnell and Coffman became fast friends, so much so that when O’Donnell wanted to purchase the land up the hill from Coffman’s hotel to build a home, she struck a deal with O’Donnell, leasing the property out to him for 50 years in exchange for his assistance in expanding her business. The deal was made and construction began, the most beautiful house in the desert at the time was completed in 1925. The 4,100 square foot villa was named Ojo del Desierto, Eye of the Desert, and it truly was. The expansive view from the home spanned the desert valley floor as far as ones vision could take them.

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