To enter the neighborhood of Little Tuscany is to be transported 80+ years and 6,000 miles. It began in 1934 when Palm Springs builder Alvah Hicks gave the area its name. He had recently returned from a visit to Tuscany, Italy where he became enamored with the artisanal stone construction that characterizes that region. Thus inspired, Hicks built seven Tuscany-style homes amidst Palm Springs' rocky hillside outcroppings.
Since that time, the boulder-strewn terrain at the base of Mount San Jacinto maintained its appeal to independent personalities ready to experiment with residential design.
Our neighborhood has been graced with notable homes by many of the 20th century's greatest architects, including Richard Neutra's famous 1946 Kaufmann House, Edward H. Fickett's 1951 May House, E. Stewart Williams' 1953 Edris House, Craig Ellwood's 1968 Palevsky House, and in 1969, Michael Black's Edna Root Shapiro House and James McNaughton's Kramer House.
One of Palm Springs' earliest developments, Little Tuscany takes its name from the streets located in the center of our neighborhood: Palermo, Girasol (Italian for "sunflower"), Tuscan, Via Olivera, and Cardillo (Sicilian, not Spanish). Original plans from the 1940s refer to this area as Piemonte Estates. Just south is the famed Little Tuscany Estates section, accessed by Chino Canyon and Panorama Streets.
Unlike the quintessential Palm Springs estates surrounded by green gardens from which to view the mountains, much of Little Tuscany is distinguished by its elevated views of the valley below and its spectacular vistas across the valley floor to the area's landmark wind turbines.
Until 2014, our neighborhood had been known as Chino Canyon – a reference to the enormous and scenic natural escarpment that forms its northern and western borders. Largely undeveloped, Chino Canyon is a 5 1/2 mile alluvial fan created by mountain rains rushing to the Whitewater River. In doing so, it carved one of North America's steepest canyons, creating a dramatic sheer drop from more than 8,500' at the Aerial Tramway's Mountain Station to less than 500' at the valley floor. lt’s a magnificent setting for Little Tuscany and it helps preserve our remarkable views.
And Little Tuscany offers more still! In fact Little Tuscany’s 700+ households help make our neighborhood one of the most eclectic in Palm Springs. We have vast open spaces (see below), freestanding homes, condominium developments, gated communities, thriving businesses along North Palm Canyon Drive, and one of the city’s newest developments, Desert Palisades.
Our Open Spaces
Little Tuscany is fortunate to have two areas owned by the City, and even more fortunate that the City Council has promised to keep it "open". “Crescendo” is part of Chino Canyon’s alluvial fan, and is located between West Racquet Club and Tram Way. “Boulders” borders Chino Canyon Road.
Even before Alvah Hicks’ trip to Italy, the Chino Canyon Trail, running through what is now Desert Palisades, Crescendo and Boulders, was maintained by the Desert Riders Equestrian Club. Established in 1931 dedicated members helped keep the trail free of debris for hikers, riders and travelers. The Club’s members included Clark Gable, Olivia de Haviland, Carl Lykken, Charlie Farrell, Henry Fonda and Cary Grant – and is still active today.
Notable Residents Through the Years
Actors, Comedians, Singers, Architects, CEO’s and More…
Past residents of the area now known as Little Tuscany include Elvis Presley, Ray Kroc, Jack Benny, the Gabor sisters (all four!), Howard Hughes, the Jergens (as in skincare) family, Dennis Day, Jayne Mansfield, Frederick Loewe, Barry Manilow, Rod Taylor and artist Ozz Franca.
The Palm Springs Public Arts Commission has honored Little Tuscany’s city-owned open space, Crescendo, with FossilOPs of the Future by local artist and Little Tuscany resident Tyler Burton, @etylerburtonart. Find it on West Racquet Club at Leonard along a quiet little path.