--> Palm Springs Visitor Center History - Visit Palm Springs tag-img

Palm Springs Visitor Center History

visitor center

2901 N Palm Canyon Drive

Located at the corner of Tramway Road and North Palm Canyon, this iconic building greets the visitors coming into Palm Springs on Highway 111 and those visiting the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Originally designed as a gas station, it now houses the Palm Springs Visitor Information Center.

Architect Albert Frey

The Palm Springs Visitor Center’s history begins with Albert Frey. He is one of the earliest modern-style architects in Palm Springs. His first project was in the summer of 1934. Dr. Kocher commissioned him for an office/apartment dual-use building on Palm Canyon. Frey and Kocher began designing the Aluminaire House in 1930. Frey visited the desert for the first time and fell in love. The building was the beginning of what would be “desert modernism.” He eventually moved to Palm Springs and began his long career.

aluminaire house
Aluminaire House

His other local works include the Palm Springs City Hall, the Monkey Tree Hotel, and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Valley Station. His home, known as Frey House II, is perched above the Palm Springs Art museum. He bequeathed it to the Art Museum upon his death, and it is now open for tours through the museum.

albert frey of palm springs
Source: Palm Springs Historical Society
frey house II
Frey House II

Tramway Gas Station

Palm Springs Visitor Center history began as a gas station. Frey, who collaborated with Robson Chambers, was commissioned to design a new Tramway Gas Station in North Palm Springs at the base of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. For this project, Albert Frey chose a roof form that would come to symbolize mid-century design, the hyperbolic paraboloid. The program for the service station was minimal: shelter for six gasoline pumps, an office, two storage rooms, a pair of restrooms, and three automobile service bays. The roof is constructed of ribbed galvanized steel panels resting on steel beams and held up by six steel pipe posts. The main building features his signature corner treatments where the concrete blocks are cut on a diagonal at every other paired row.

It opened in 1965 as an ENCO service station, with manager Harold Barnes as the first tenant. Frey had just completed work on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Valley Station, which opened in 1963.

It did well for many years; however, business had slowed, and by the early 1990s, the station was closed and boarded up.

Palm Springs City Council designated the property as a Class 1 Site on January 6, 1999.

Palm springs visitor center
Source: Palm Springs Historical Society
tramway gas station visitor center
Photo: Bill Anderson

Now Welcomes Visitors from Around the World

The City of Palm Springs purchased the building for $638,000 in 2002. They then invested in more restorations, including extensive interior remodeling, drought-resistant landscaping, a new parking lot, and a separate restroom building. In November 2003, Frey’s iconic Tramway Gas Station reopened as the official Palm Springs Visitor Center.

visitor center

This is an excellent stop on any Palm Springs visit. Here, you will find books and literature about Palm Springs, plus a range of maps and guides. There is also plenty of merchandise and souvenirs to browse. Guest Services can answer any questions you might have about Palm Springs to enhance your visit.

Just North of the Visitor Center is the large Palm Springs sign welcoming visitors into Palm Springs. It is very popular with Instagrammers.

palm springs sign

From the Palm Springs Visitor Center, you will head up Tram Road to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. This is the #1 attraction in Palm Springs and a must-do. (Note: Tickets for the Tram are not sold at the Visitor Center)

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

You May Also Like:

Palm Springs Architects & Developers

Women Pioneers of Palm Springs

More From Architecture

View All Posts
visitor center

Palm Springs Architects & Developers

Discover the people who helped shape the look of Palm Springs architecture. George Alexander, Developer…

Read More

Take A Tour of Frey House II

A Masterpiece of Modernism in Palm Springs Above the downtown landscape lies an architectural gem…

Read More
Twin Palms home exterior

Architects Who Built Palm Springs: Dan Palmer & William Krisel

Palm Springs owes much of its unique charm to the vision and creativity of architects…

Read More