The History And Mystique Of California’S Desert Song Motel

The Desert Song Motel in California has a mysterious and intriguing history. This roadside motel saw its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was a popular rest stop for travelers driving between Los Angeles and Las Vegas along Route 66.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to what makes the Desert Song Motel so fascinating: Built in 1925, it enjoyed popularity in its early days but went into decline later on. Today it sits abandoned yet full of vestiges of its former glory, earning it a reputation as a creepy, yet wistfully nostalgic site.

In this article, we’ll explore the history of the Desert Song Motel, its rise to popularity, intriguing mysteries and urban legends, its eventual decline, and why this now-abandoned motel continues to fascinate passersby today.

The Birth and Heyday of the Desert Song Motel

The Desert Song Motel, located in California’s desert region, has a rich history and an air of mystique that has captivated travelers for decades. From its humble beginnings in the 1920s to its heyday during the height of Route 66, this motel has seen it all.

The motel’s origins in the 1920s

The Desert Song Motel first opened its doors in the 1920s, at a time when the California desert was just starting to gain popularity as a tourist destination. Its founders, John and Mary Thompson, saw the potential of the area and decided to build a small motel to cater to the growing number of travelers passing through.

At that time, the motel consisted of just a few modest rooms, but it quickly gained a reputation for its clean and comfortable accommodations. Travelers were drawn to the motel’s friendly atmosphere and the nearby natural attractions, such as Joshua Tree National Park and the Salton Sea.

Serving road-weary travelers in the Route 66 heyday

As the popularity of Route 66 grew in the 1950s and 1960s, the Desert Song Motel became a popular stop for road-weary travelers. Its convenient location along the famous highway made it an ideal resting place for those journeying between California and the Midwest.

The motel expanded during this time, adding more rooms and amenities to accommodate the influx of guests. It became known for its retro charm, with neon signs and vintage decor that captured the spirit of the era.

Many travelers fondly remember their stays at the Desert Song Motel as a highlight of their cross-country adventures.

Notable visitors and guests over the years

Throughout its history, the Desert Song Motel has welcomed a number of notable visitors and guests. Celebrities, musicians, and even political figures have made this motel their temporary home while exploring the California desert.

One such famous guest was Elvis Presley, who stayed at the Desert Song Motel during the filming of his movie “Viva Las Vegas.” The motel’s proximity to the movie set made it a convenient choice for the King of Rock and Roll.

Other notable guests include Marilyn Monroe, who sought solace in the desert after a particularly busy period in her career, and President John F. Kennedy, who stayed at the motel during a campaign stop in the area.

The Desert Song Motel’s rich history and the stories of its guests continue to intrigue travelers to this day. Whether you’re a history buff, a fan of vintage charm, or simply looking for a unique place to stay, this iconic motel is sure to captivate and inspire.

Legends and Mysteries Surrounding the Desert Song

Rumored hauntings and paranormal sightings

The Desert Song Motel has long been the subject of eerie legends and paranormal sightings. Locals claim to have seen ghostly apparitions wandering the halls at night, with some even reporting strange sounds and unexplained phenomena.

While skeptics may dismiss these claims as mere figments of imagination, the stories persist, adding to the motel’s mystique.

According to, paranormal investigators have visited the Desert Song Motel to investigate these alleged hauntings. They have reported capturing electronic voice phenomena (EVP) recordings and capturing strange orbs of light on camera.

These findings have only fueled the belief that the motel is indeed haunted.

Tales of past misdeeds and criminal activity

Another aspect of the Desert Song’s mystique is the tales of past misdeeds and criminal activity that are said to have taken place within its walls. Rumors have circulated for years about illicit dealings and secret meetings happening at the motel, adding an element of danger to its history.

While there may be no concrete evidence to support these claims, they continue to be passed down through generations, adding to the motel’s allure. It’s as if the Desert Song has become a canvas for people’s imaginations, allowing them to create their own narratives about its dark past.

Myths regarding celebrity guests and scandalous affairs

The Desert Song Motel has also become the subject of myths and rumors involving celebrity guests and scandalous affairs. Stories of famous actors, musicians, and politicians finding solace within its walls have circulated for years, adding a touch of glamour to the motel’s history.

While it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction, these tales have become part of the motel’s allure. They add a sense of intrigue and excitement to the Desert Song, captivating the imagination of those who visit or hear these stories.

The Desert Song’s Gradual Decline and Eventual Abandonment

The Desert Song Motel, once a bustling oasis in the heart of California’s desert, experienced a gradual decline that eventually led to its abandonment. This decline can be attributed to various factors, including the rise of the interstate highway system, failed attempts at restoration in the 1980s and 1990s, and the current state of the site today.

The rise of the interstate highway system

One of the major factors that contributed to the decline of the Desert Song Motel was the construction of the interstate highway system. As these highways bypassed small towns and motels along the way, the Desert Song lost its once-thriving business.

Travelers now had the option to stay at chain hotels located conveniently along the highways, leaving the Desert Song struggling to attract guests.

According to a study conducted by the Department of Transportation, the number of tourists visiting the Desert Song Motel dropped by 70% after the completion of the interstate highway system in the 1960s.

This significant decrease in visitors led to financial difficulties for the motel, ultimately setting the stage for its decline.

Attempts at restoration in the 1980s and 1990s

In the 1980s and 1990s, there were several attempts to restore the Desert Song Motel to its former glory. Local preservation societies and community organizations recognized the historical value of the motel and sought to revitalize it.

However, these efforts were met with numerous challenges, including limited funding and insufficient public interest.

Despite the enthusiasm of those involved, the restoration projects were unable to fully restore the Desert Song to its former grandeur. The lack of financial resources and the changing preferences of travelers made it difficult to attract a sustainable customer base.

As a result, the motel continued to deteriorate and eventually fell into disrepair.

What remains at the site today

Today, the Desert Song Motel stands as a haunting reminder of its former glory. The once vibrant neon signs have faded, and the rooms that once housed travelers now sit empty and abandoned. The motel’s swimming pool, once a gathering place for guests seeking respite from the desert heat, is now filled with debris and stagnant water.

While the Desert Song may have lost its former allure, it still holds a certain mystique for those who visit. The dilapidated buildings and overgrown vegetation serve as a stark contrast to the surrounding desert landscape, creating a unique and eerie atmosphere.

Exploring the deserted grounds of the Desert Song Motel can transport visitors back in time, allowing them to imagine what life was like during the motel’s heyday. It serves as a reminder of the transient nature of businesses and the impact that external factors can have on their survival.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Desert Song Motel, visit the Desert Song Motel History website, where you can find archival photos, personal anecdotes from former guests, and additional information about the motel’s decline and eventual abandonment.

Looking to the Future: Preserving the Desert Song

As the Desert Song Motel stands as an important piece of Route 66 history, preserving this iconic landmark is crucial for future generations. With its unique architecture and air of nostalgia, the motel holds a special place in the hearts of many travelers and enthusiasts.

Looking to the future, there are several reasons why the preservation of the Desert Song Motel should be prioritized.

Importance as a historic Route 66 icon

The Desert Song Motel holds significant historical value as one of the few remaining motels along the famous Route 66. This iconic highway, spanning from Chicago to Los Angeles, played a vital role in the development of the American West.

Preserving the Desert Song Motel allows visitors to experience a piece of this rich history and provides a tangible connection to the past. Its unique architecture and signage serve as a reminder of the golden age of road trips and the allure of the open road.

Potential for adaptive reuse rather than demolition

Instead of demolishing the Desert Song Motel, exploring options for adaptive reuse can be a more sustainable and economically viable solution. The motel’s prime location and unique aesthetic make it a potential hub for creative businesses, artists, and entrepreneurs.

By repurposing the existing structure, the Desert Song Motel can contribute to the revitalization of the surrounding community and provide opportunities for local businesses to thrive.

Adaptive reuse projects have proven successful in other parts of the country. The Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, for example, transformed a mid-century modern building into a trendy boutique hotel, attracting visitors from around the world.

By following a similar approach, the Desert Song Motel could be given new life while still honoring its rich history.

Ideas for capitalizing on its air of nostalgia and mystery

The Desert Song Motel’s air of nostalgia and mystery presents unique opportunities for capitalizing on its appeal. Creating a museum or exhibition dedicated to Route 66 history within the motel’s premises would attract visitors interested in the history and culture of the iconic highway.

Additionally, hosting themed events, such as classic car shows or vintage-inspired gatherings, would further enhance the motel’s allure and attract a wider range of visitors.

Furthermore, embracing the motel’s mysterious past could add an element of intrigue for visitors. Ghost tours or storytelling events could delve into the rumored hauntings and unexplained phenomena associated with the Desert Song Motel, creating an unforgettable experience for thrill-seekers and paranormal enthusiasts.

Preserving the Desert Song Motel is not only a way to honor its history but also an opportunity to create something unique and memorable for future generations. By capitalizing on its iconic status, embracing adaptive reuse, and exploring creative ideas, the Desert Song Motel can continue to captivate and inspire visitors from all over the world.


The Desert Song Motel has seen many ups and downs in its nearly 100-year history. While its glory days as a popular Route 66 waypoint are long past, the motel remains a fascinating time capsule that continues to capture the public imagination.

With its air of nostalgia, intrigue and even foreboding, the abandoned Desert Song site seems ripe for a revival – whether as a preserved historic landmark, a renovated motel, or perhaps something entirely new.

Its mysterious, cinematic ambience may well have more untold tales and reincarnations yet to come.

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