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

Albert Frey is one of the earliest modern style architects in Palm Springs. His first project was in the summer of 1934. He was commission for an office/apartment dual-use building on Palm Canyon for Dr. Kocher. 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

Some of 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 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

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 that opened in 1963.

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

Palm Springs City Council designates property as 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 Welcome’s 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 an extensive remodeling of the interior, drought-resistant landscaping, a new parking lot, and the addition of a separate building for restrooms. In November of 2003, Frey’s iconic Tramway Gas Station reopened as the official Palm Springs Visitor Center.

visitor center

This is a great 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

By Randy Garner

Palm Springs Architects & Developers

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