Like all thriving cities, Palm Springs history is deeply rooted in well know celebrity names staking claim as influencers in the city’s development history. However, there are quite a few names we don’t know about that actually had an even bigger influence on how our city developed the current tracts and venues we know today. This is a story about Lawrence Crossley. From chauffeur and handyman to Golf Course, Trailer Park and Housing Tract designer. Lawrence Crossley left his mark on Palm Springs. Renee Brown with the Desert Sun shares his story in an article published on August 18, 2018.
How Crossley Road got its name
Many streets in Palm Springs are named for celebrities but a few streets are named for residents who made a significant impact on the evolution of the city.
In July of 2015, the Palm Springs Planning Commission agreed unanimously to change the name of the street that connects Ramon Road to East Palm Canyon Drive.
At the time it had two names, Golf Club Drive on the south and Crossley Road on the north. The commission decided to name the entire street Crossley Road in honor of Lawrence Crossley one of the earliest African-American residents in Palm Springs.
The street runs parallel to the Crossley Tract, which is the housing subdivision developed by Crossley, and the Tahquitz Creek Golf Course.
Crossley arrived in the mid-1920s from New Orleans and went to work for P.T. Stevens as his chauffeur and handyman. He soon became one of Stevens most trusted employees and managed many of Stevens’ projects.
He designed and planted the golf course for Stevens at El Mirador Hotel in 1928. He also supervised the opening and closing of the floodgates for Whitewater Mutual Water Company which was also owned by Stevens. Crossley himself invested in multiple local businesses as well real estate. He developed two trailer parks, Crossley Corners located in the 1500 block of East Ramon Road and the Tramview Trailer Park fronting Hwy 111 in Cathedral City.
Historically, inexpensive rentals were scarce in the city of Palm Springs for those with limited incomes but during the 1940s and 1950s tribal members offered low-priced rentals including trailers and small houses on their reservation. Some homes located on Section 14 the renters built themselves.
Living on the reservation provided affordable housing for African-American, Mexican-American, Filipinos and working-class whites who were employed as construction laborers, domestics, and hotel and restaurants workers. The federal government limited leases on tribal land to five years.
In 1959, the federal law changed and tribal members were allowed to lease parts of their land for up to 99-years. This dramatically increased the value of the land on the reservation thus affecting residents because the land that once was rented for a meager sum now was being developed and residents were being displaced. In response to the need for affordable housing Crossley started work on a new housing tract in the area south of Ramon Road.
This 20-acre tract was located east of the city limits at the time of its development. Homes were traditional in style and available to minority families, many who were displaced by the development on Section 14. Crossley named the streets after himself and his family with Martha Street on the south, Lawrence Street on the west, and Marguerite Street on the east of his development.
A large grove of Tamarisk trees was planted to protect the new development from the wind and sand that blew across the empty desert. The homes were relatively inexpensive and eligible for Federal Housing Administration loans with a low interest rate. The area was not annexed into the city of Palm Springs until the mid-1960s. Crossley died in 1961 before the project was completed.