There’s a saying that states the desert attracts eccentrics, visionaries and crackpots. Ok, maybe there isn’t, but there should be. Because it does. The desert I mean. Attracts visionaries and crackpots. Because it does.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Visionaries have that vision thing. They see potential where others do not. Cabot Yerxa looked out on the landscape at the not yet named Desert Hot Springs and saw a place to create his home and “castle.” A seasoned traveler and a man who had seen much in his life, this is a credit to the magnetism of the area. And oh yeah, there was water.
He is credited as the rediscoverer of the hot and cold springs there — Native Americans discovered them originally, of course. The lack of other resources such as timber wouldn’t faze him. Now called Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, he used reclaimed materials on the building, dismantling his first house in another area of town and reusing that lumber. An early recycler, he purchased area shacks and reused those materials too, even straightening used nails. You can see the address numbers on some of the beams in part of the museum. Some windows are made from broken glass with free-form “panes” added to hold the broken pieces together, making an eclectic mix. The adobe brick he made himself —you can see the fire pit in the courtyard.
He painted the large paintings of the Kachina on the sides of the buildings, and I must note, not in the naive style. They are precise and geometric, even at their large size. The paintings in place now are reproductions of his work. He spent 24 years working on the building until his death.
You can wander the property without purchasing a tour and we did so prior to our allotted tour time. The house itself is a labyrinth-looking and much of the upper floors were not open when I visited. Yerxa designed it as a Hopi Indian pueblo, to honor Native Americans. You can walk around the back of the property and see through to some of the higher floors and see some of the out buildings. (According to the website, the pueblo has 35 rooms and 30 rooflines.) On the interior tour, you’ll see part of the house that was used as Yerxa’s museum, bedrooms, the living room and his wife’s clothing and furnishings.(She must have truly loved Cabot to set up house in such an untraditional manner.) Dirt floors in the living room kept things cool and kept one grounded, according to Yerxa. He entertained friends and showed them his travel collectibles, starting his museum tradition. Indeed, one of his friends would end up saving the house and grounds and allowing
You can also enter a room which focuses on the promotion of Desert Hot Springs as a tourist/health destination. Yerxa, along with a handful of other area businessman, believed the springs would be an attractive draw to midcentury car travelers looking to relax and rejuvenate in the desert and pushed for its recognition as such.
Take the time to wander the grounds. There are additional buildings, weathered objects and seating areas allowing one to soak in the mellowness of the desert.
And the “Waokiye” sculpture by Peter Toth, carved from a felled Sequoia redwood and towering over the estate at 40 feet high. Toth created the piece as a tribute to Native Americans and it is part of a series called the “Trail of the Whispering Giants,” which deserves a post all by itself.
Cabot’s Pueblo Museum is the kind of odd attraction you used to see when taking a car road trip, beckoning you to slam on the brakes. Created by an eccentric driven to perfect his vision in an unforgiving, harsh climate, it’s a blueprint of a man filled with persistence and grit. And with that vision thing.
That’s nice. Sooo, should I go? The tour lasts about 1 hour, so if you’re not into listening to biographical history, it may not be for you. But if you like to learn about unique people doing unusual things in an unusual setting —like me, you’ll really enjoy this. The guides are knowledgeable on the man, the house and the area. The tour is probably not great for young kids but it’s really a pleasant place to walk around, so they might enjoy that.
I’m smitten. Tell me more. Before heading out, check the website for their hours as they aren’t open seven days a week, especially during the summer. I didn’t do this and had to go home as they were closed on my first try. Bring water. No photos are allowed inside the house itself. The gift shop is very nice, but there isn’t food sold on site.
Location 67616 Desert View Avenue, Desert Hot Springs, California 92240
Cost You can explore the grounds for free. You can’t enter the house without purchasing the tour which is $13 for adults, $11 for seniors, active military and kids 6-12. Tickets for the tour are usually 2-for-1 on Groupon (though it’s rather unclear that you are purchasing the tour on Groupon, as it states the tickets are “General Admission.”) That’s what I did and thought I was purchasing admission to the site, so the tour was a pleasant surprise for me. But if you just want to look around the exterior, (the view is lovely) you don’t need tickets.