A Hideaway for Presidents and Hollywood’s Brightest.
Clark Gable, Ginger Rogers, Kathryn Hepburn, Errol Flynn, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo and Rudolph Valentino…their names carry the glamour of gilded era of Hollywood. They came to the desert for a variety of reasons; whether they sought to escape the pressures of stardom in solitude or to celebrate their freedom with friends, the old desert welcomed them with warmth and sunlight and serenity. Tradition’s Hacienda del Gato was at the heart of that old desert experience.
The Ranch’s Early Beginnings.
Before La Quinta was La Quinta, the estate that became Tradition Golf Club was here. Originally homesteaded in 1902 by John Marshall, Marshall’s Cove later was named La Quinta, or “the country house” in Spanish. Immediately a well to the aquifer was sunk to provide irrigation for the property and the small house and well house were built. They remain as the oldest remaining buildings on the property today; built in 1910, the small house was later converted to a guest home/pool house to accommodate visitors. This has been restored as the Eisenhower cottage, used by members as a card room and a private dining room.
In 1920, the main ranch house was built; it was designed by noted architect, Gordon Kaufmann, who later designed the La Quinta Resort. The home was laid out so that the beauty of the largest visible peak of the Santa Rosas was framed down the main garden path. Those gardens, which remain to this day, include some of the oldest cactus and other specialty plantings in the valley including three grassless fan palms which were first planted by the Southern Pacific Railroad when they first came to the valley in the late 1880s before being transplanted to Tradition.
The Marshall family eventually sold their ranch to a Los Angeles oil and real estate tycoon, William Rosecrans, who was well acquainted with the Hollywood legends of the era. The Rosencrans family brought understated elegance to the estate; they had lighting fixtures made in Seville, Spain. Textiles for curtains were commissioned in Guatemala and Talavera tiles were custom-made for the entry and living room.
One Extraordinary Cat. One Great Story.
A family pet became legend and gave name to the estate through her exploits. Mrs. Rosencrans was leaving the home and as she stepped outside the kitchen door, the family’s little grey cat saved her from a big rattlesnake strike. In gratitude for the beloved pet, the ranch was named the “Hacienda del Gato.”
A Mid-Century Tradition.
Hollywood glitterati were not the only visitors; the Hacienda’s warmth and serenity were sought by the political elite as well. Both President Eisenhower and President Kennedy enjoyed extended visits to the ranch. It was a provided them dose of serenity and privacy. That tradition of retreat continues to this day.
After serving for decades years as the family’s retreat, the ranch was purchased by Kelly McBean then later by Fritz Burns. The fertile nature of the land became the primary focus. The swimming pool was constantly circulated with fresh aquifer well water; as it overflowed, it irrigated the citrus orchards which were planted below the home. The scents from Eureka and Ponderosa lemons, pink and ruby grapefruit, Dancy and Algerian tangerines, Temple and Seville oranges, and pomegranates filled the air. It remained a working ranch until 1991.
A Current Tradition.
And then? The original Marshall’s Cove, the Hacienda del Gato retreat of the Rosencrans family and old Hollywood, was sought to create a championship golf experience in a socially intimate setting. The site, with its awe-inspiring natural setting, caused Arnold Palmer, Tradition Golf Club course designer and member of the Club, to say, “This land is something really wonderful. It bends and curves beautifully, set against the mountains, giving the golf course lots of drama.”
The tradition of the Hacienda del Gato was filled with warmth and graciousness. Its gates welcomed visitors to the heart of the old desert. Those gates are preserved at Hole 3 on the golf course; they sit beside the entry drive and welcome members and guests today. Hollywood and political elite came to the desert to find their hidden sanctuary; that same tradition has shaped Tradition’s present. Many first time visitors to Tradition Golf Club and the Hacienda del Gato have said as they enter the property, “This is home.”