The City of Indio was born out of necessity, a railroad town that sprung to life in 1876 as the Southern Pacific Railroad built lines between Yuma, Arizona and Los Angeles, California. The engines needed a place to refill their water, and the workers needed somewhere to recharge their own batteries. Shortly after the City of Indio, named after a Spanish variation of “Indian,” was founded, the first permanent building was erected: The Southern Pacific Depot Station and Hotel. Hoping to attract and retain workers, the hotel quickly became the center of all social interactions in Indio, a place where one could find fine dining and Friday night dances, a welcome reprieve from life in the difficult desert terrain.
By the turn of the century, Indio had blossomed into a promising agricultural region. Ingenious farmers irrigated the land first through wells and later by accessing the All-American Canal, which allowed crops such as onions, cotton, grapes, citrus, and dates to thrive in the otherwise arid climate.
In 1907, Indio began work as the home of the USDA’s Date Station. Scientists researched date cultivation, learning the techniques of farmers from the Persian Gulf and Northern Africa, where dates are native. The data collected through this initiative bolstered date production in Indio, and today the area produces all of the United State’s 41.4 million pound annual output. Date production has become more than an economic boon to Indio, though. It has become part of its culture. Every year, Indio holds the National Date Festival, its Middle Eastern theme harkening back to the crop’s roots.
It was likely this transition into an agricultural powerhouse that saved Indio from becoming a fading railroad outpost. By the 20th century, Indio was growing into a fine place to live. With population growth came schools, medical facilities, and economic opportunity. On May 16, 1930, Indio was the first city in the Coachella Valley to be incorporated; only 54 years after its first building was erected.
Today, the City of Indio is currently the largest and fastest growing city in Riverside County’s Coachella Valley with over 89,000 residents. Nearly 1.4 million people visit the “City of Festivals” every year to attend its world famous arts, food, and music festivals such as the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and Stagecoach Country Music Festival. These are some of the reasons why Indio is ranked as one of the top emerging travel destinations in the country.
With nationally recognized public safety services, exceptional schools, great parks and senior and teen centers, no wonder it is ranked as one of the best places to live for young families with over 3,000 new housing units in construction or being planned throughout the city in addition to new hotels, restaurants and retailers. People who visit tend to stay here once they experience Indio’s temperate winter climate, high quality of life, art and cultural offerings, unique restaurants and shops, diversity, and outstanding municipal services.
For more history about Indio and the Coachella Valley, go to the Coachella Valley History Museum.