As tiring as my trip home from Santa Fe was, I couldn’t drive past the near-ghost town of Desert Center without stopping for a few photos.
Founded in 1921 by Stephen A. Ragsdale, an itinerant preacher and cotton farmer who would also prove to be quite the entrepreneur, this desolate and now mostly-abandoned place was once a World War II army training center and the local cafe a hangout for General George Patton. Oddly enough, this tiny town is also credited as being the birthplace of Kaiser-Permanente, the largest managed health-care system in the world.
Originally from Arkansas, Ragsdale was driving to Los Angeles on business in 1915 when his car broke down in the desert. He would later return with his family and establish businesses that catered to motorists, offering travelers a much-needed place to stop for food, gas, and car-repair services.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, the remote location (he provided the only services within a 50-mile radius) Ragsdale did very well. When it was announced in 1921 that the sand road running through Desert Center would be replaced by a modern highway, Ragsdale essentially rebuilt the town, adding a new cafe with an attached service station, a market, a post office, and an enclave of cabins (pictured here) for travelers who wanted to spend the night. Ninety-three years later, the only one of those businesses still in operation is the post office on Ragsdale Road.
Despite his vision and remarkable success, Ragland would eventually, after a scandal involving a woman other than his wife, leave Desert Center in disgrace. His son Stanley purchased the town from him and ended up running it for decades.
As for the photo, it was taken with a Canon Rebel T2 and Fujichrome Velvia 100F 35mm color-slide film.