In 1970, $200 million was an astronomical sum. It was therefore quite surprising that Harry Chaddick decided to invest on this scale to create Andreas Hills south of Palm Springs. Once the unknown domain of the Agua Caliente Indians, the idyllic place predated the oasis of palm-filled canyons that stretched into the crevasse between the great desert mountains.
Chaddick’s investment would produce a 700-acre community billed as “just five minutes from downtown Palm Springs…nestled on the western slope of Palm Canyon…Andreas Hills offers cluster condominiums on one and two stories, as well as two story townhouses with three bedrooms on the lower slopes of the hills.”
Higher up, Chaddick planned half-acre estates with sweeping views of the flat desert below. “Roads are currently being developed to provide access to some 400 housing sites. Residents of the 300 condominiums and custom homes will have access to all of the development’s recreational facilities, including swimming pools, hot tubs, tennis courts, shuffleboard, stables, arenas and equestrian trails. The California-Mediterranean architecture, with iron gates, archways, tiled roofs, masonry walls and bay windows, was designed by architect Edward Walker to accentuate garden-oriented living.
Andreas Hills, dubbed “the Bel Air” of Palm Springs, was Chaddick’s third major project in the desert, making him the city’s largest real estate developer. With the purchase of land at Andreas Hills came membership in the Tennis Club or the Whitewater Country Club, which Chaddick also owned.
His plans for expansion and improvement at the Tennis Club, which he purchased in 1961, and Whitewater Country Club, previously called San Jacinto and purchased in 1969, were ambitious, even grandiose.
At the tennis club, he planned to add a 150-room hotel and an absurdly lit waterfall falling 250 feet down the side of a mountain off Baristo Road that would end in a reflection pool “which will be connected to a hotel shopping center”. The expansion was engineered by William Cody after an epic struggle with the city over its height. The resulting more modest two-story building extended north from the original club and was intended to blend into the mountainside skinned in a special sand-colored cement found in Nebraska.
The opening of the new addition in 1973 was attended by Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood, Candice Bergen, Ginger Rogers, Dinah Shore, Susan St. James, Suzanne Pleschette, Barbara Mark, Kirk and Anne Douglas and Steve McQueen and Ali Mc Graw. The newspaper reported that among the “notable bachelors” in attendance included Burt Reynolds, Rock Hudson, Ross Hunter, Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra and Bill Holden.
At Whitewater Country Club, Chaddick spent $100,000 in 1970 alone to rebuild the clubhouse in the “Moorish style” and add 5,000 trees. He had plans for over 200 condominiums around the championship course also designed by Cody. It comprised 175 acres described as a “self-contained recreation area with its own golf and tennis facilities, a swimming pool, table tennis tables, a therapy pool and a village pavilion containing a lounge bar and dining room. . It is located near a large equestrian center and only five minutes from the airport.”
Chaddick has touted Whitewater Country Club as one of the few courses with year-round golf and greens maintenance, sporting four lakes, a putting green and driving range. (Without the largesse of a dedicated owner, the club and course have since fallen into disrepair.)
Chaddick also purchased 500 acres at 4,000 feet in the Santa Rosa Mountains with the intention of developing lots after the completion of Dunn Road, which if completed would have provided access to the imagined lots. (The Dunn’s Road was never completed, leading locals to refer to it as the “non-Dunn’s Road”.)
The newspaper noted, “Although Chaddick admits he has yet to make a 10 cent profit on any of his Palm Springs businesses, the changes are that the situation will change, in light of his current plans. “
Rather, it was that in light of Horatio Alger’s life story, it was reasonable to bank on his achievement. Chaddick was born into a family of nine children on the West Side of Chicago. He dropped out of school at 14 to work as an errand boy in a pharmacy to help feed his impoverished family. Later he operated two newsstands and studied business in the evenings. In his twenties, he bought a used truck and got into the auto freight business, eventually building one of the biggest companies in the country. Then he turned to real estate. He became an expert in zoning and planning. Among many projects, he redeveloped an automobile factory in Ford City, the largest shopping center in the United States at the time, covering over 640 acres of commercial and residential development. His many accomplishments included directing transport in North Africa during World War II, which earned him more accolades.
This fame also brought him a strange attention. In May 1979, Chaddick’s 65-year-old wife, Elaine, was kidnapped at gunpoint from her Palm Springs home by a married couple. The kidnappers held her in a mineshaft near Twentynine Palms. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of $1 million, which paled in comparison to Chaddick’s prodigious wealth. But in his sure-fire businessman way, Chaddick negotiated them up to $198,000 during his wife’s three-day ordeal.
The money was deposited in a spot marked with an X in the sand near where Ms Chaddick was being held captive. The kidnapper, on a motorbike, tried to collect the ransom when an FBI plane spotted him, alerting the sheriff’s helicopters, which launched an aerial chase across the desert.
The kidnapper fell off his motorbike and opened fire on the officers, who shot him. The kidnapper fled in an RV which she later abandoned after a gunfight with pursuers. She was found and arrested by a Palm Springs police team who followed her 20 miles through the desert to a metal shack in a salt quarry. She was then prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
The work no doubt frightened the Chaddicks and perhaps made them think. In 1981, after a lifetime of work, Chaddick sold the Tennis Club. At a party there, Rabbi Joe Hurwitz teased that Chaddick had “unloaded that white elephant” and said he had heard the new owners “just sold all the tennis courts”. Chaddick was quick with a funny retort: “Some people asked me why did I sell them, how could I do this to them? And these are the same people who complained about my rotten place, my rotten food, my terrible service.
Throughout the 1980s, he focused on giving away his money rather than earning more. The traumatic events of the kidnapping were incorporated into the book “The Night of the Full Moon” by Herb Clough, the FBI agent who had overseen the case. The feature film “Do It or Die” based on this book premiered at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in 2017.
Tracy Conrad is president of the Palm Springs Historical Society. The Memories Thanks column appears on Sundays in The Desert Sun. Email him at [email protected]