The homesteads of Wonder Valley are featured in this week’s edition of KCET’s ArtBound, a vigorous new county-by-county art and culture web program created by local contributors and supported by community input.
Kim Stringfellow’s essay received enough popular favor to be chosen for production into an accompanying web video. The video features lots of Wonder Valley’s favorite crumbling cabins, as well as interviews with Kim, local historian Pat Rimmington, and myself.
In the essay Kim summarizes some of the observations from her book Jackrabbit Homestead: Tracing the Small Tract Act in the Southern California Landscape, 1938-2008:
Although some cabins have been passed down from the original jackrabbit homesteaders to family members for recreation and other purposes, today the majority of the area’s jackrabbit homesteads have fallen beyond repair, lending a ghostly and feral presence to the landscape. Others have found new function as primary, full-time residences with modifications, often referred to as “biltmores” by area residents. A small, but growing community of artists and musicians fleeing rising housing prices and general urban ills of the Los Angeles metropolitan area are reclaiming and re-envisioning the structures as artist studios or as creative retreats. Inventive enclaves forming within this geographically defined area are inspired by the Morongo Basin’s spacious desert backdrop, its perceived tranquility, and a desire to form a sense of community within a rural environment. Many have migrated to the region with aspirations uncannily akin to the original homesteaders and share similar outlooks or values with them.