The official name of this property is “The Historic Cavanagh Adobe”. We have named it “El Oasis” because we consider it our little oasis from the hustle and bustle of modern living.
Construction on this property started in 1922 by brothers, Albert and Hubert “Bert” Cavanagh, early Coachella Valley pioneers. The architect was H. Anderson Sanders. The house is one of the oldest homes in the Coachella Valley and one of the few adobes still standing. Bert Cavanagh was one of the founders of the City of Indian Wells and one-time Mayor. After Albert married, his brother Bert built his own one-story adobe just east of the house. That house was demolished when the housing development surrounding the property started construction. The previous owner refused to sell to the developer and so now we are able to still enjoy a piece of Coachella Valley history.
Originally on 20 acres and planted with date palms, the land the house sits on was purchased by the Cavanagh brothers from Mr. Cook for a total of $200 ($100 for the land and $100 for water). Mr. Cook was the namesake of the street the house now fronts on. Less than 20 of the original Deglet Noor date palms remain. The property is eligible for listing on the National Register for the significant role it played in the area’s date palm industry. Specifically, when disease struck the date palm industry in the middle east in the early part of the 20th century, seedlings from the Cavanagh’s date stock, were sent to the middle east to help re-establish its date palm population. The metal grill above the fireplace in the Living Room was found by the previous owner in an antique shop and lists the name of a date palm variety.
According to an interview with Bert Cavanagh in 1980, the house cost $3000 or $4000 when it was finally completed in 1928. It is constructed from thousands of 4x12x18 inch adobe bricks handmade by Bert Cavanagh, his foreman, Juan del Rio, and some Mexican workers with adobe soil from Pedersen Ranch on Washington Street in La Quinta. Pedersen Ranch was the closest available adobe soil to Indian Wells. The massive fireplace which once heated the entire house was constructed by Henry Neilsen, a Swede who according to Bert Cavanagh, “built the finest fireplaces in the Valley”. The roof, as well, was handmade on-site by a La Quinta craftsman named Joe Valenzuela who formed the tile by bending clay over his thigh. The grandson of Art Montoya, one of the “Palmeros” (a term for a someone able to work high in palms), still works on the property, but now, instead of planting and taking care of the palms, his grandson, Tom, makes sure our pool and spa are up and running.
The house was originally a 2 bedroom 2 bath house with an upstairs sleeping porch. Over the years, various owners have changed and added to the house. When we purchased the home, the upstairs sleeping porch had been converted into a large bedroom (1965) with spectacular views and the porch off the Living Room had been enlarged and enclosed to create a Family Room. It was connected to the Kitchen where the TV in the Master Bedroom now is. We converted this room into the Master Bedroom and constructed a Master Bath Addition, the street portion of which is now the Entry Porch. The original Entry was a porch that is now enclosed and is used as a Dining Room. The previous owner loved the house as much as we do and had hired an interior decorator to redo the kitchen and the bathrooms in a French Provincial style. While very pleasant, we chose to return the decor to a style more true to what it may have been originally and removed the beige tile floor and wainscot in the bathrooms and replaced them with a wainscot of Tunisian Tile, similar to what would have been used in homes of that time and the same tile that can be found in the Santa Barbara County Courthouse completed in 1929. It is probably a bit more fancy than what one would find in a working ranch house, but it is period appropriate. We have furnished the home with our collection of Monterey Revival Antiques and Early California collectibles, many of which date from the period the house was constructed.
One word of note about historic adobes: We love our home and we do everything within our power to keep it clean, sparkly and comfortable. We have spent the past 5 years restoring it and it is an on-going process. The house is adobe and almost 100 years old as are many of the furnishings. What we have learned through the process is that adobes take on a life of their own. They are living breathing things that transform with the weather. While we have replaced much of the weatherstripping, one good windy day and fine grain desert sand will find its way in. A good rainstorm, and the adobe will absorb water. Leave a door or window open without a screen closed and bugs may decide they want to explore (Orkin comes a once a month - sometimes more often - to help keep them out). We do our best to mitigate these issues and are constantly looking for ways to improve.
It is a constant battle with the elements and makes one realize how we are all really a part of nature. Having said that, have tried to preserve as much of the original fabric of the house as we possibly can. For example, the chips and imperfections of the floor help tell a story of house the house has been transformed over time. We consider these imperfections as adding to the beauty and character of the house. The original flooring on the first floor, is made from concrete that was scored to look like tiles. It’s rust color came from crushed terra cotta pot shards that were mixed into the concrete. The color variation in the floors were deliberate. Originally the floor had been finished with paste wax that builds up over time and gives the floor a patina so it looks like polished leather. The floor has lost some of its original luster and it’s glass smooth finish but we still think it’s a beautiful floor, now with the patina of time added to its finish.
We hope you enjoy your step back into history as much as we do.