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Preservation Mirage Secures Historic Designation For The Pink Elephant Car Wash Sign


Rancho Mirage, CA – To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the City of Rancho Mirage, the iconic ‘Pink Elephant’ car wash sign is to be preserved for posterity thanks to the work of local preservation nonprofit, Preservation Mirage. The group has worked for nearly a year with the owners and operators of the 1966 Rancho Super Car Wash to obtain a full historic designation from the City of Rancho Mirage for the city’s only historic neon sign. Additional research into the sign’s history along with vintage photographs provided by Preservation Mirage were included in the application to the City, which will be approved by the City’s Historic Preservation Commission before receiving its vote by City Council members in the September 7th meeting.


Preservation Mirage has also embarked on fundraising to have the sign completely restored in the months to come, with one significant donation of $5,000 from a Preservationist Member and historic homeowner. Funds raised will not only restore the paintwork and give the neon a refresh, but Preservation Mirage will continue to ensure the sign remains in good condition and a permanent fixture on Highway 111 for future generations to enjoy.


“This is all about the preservation of significant sites in Rancho Mirage,” said Dan Allen. President of the Board of Directors for Preservation Mirage. “Our group’s founder, Melissa Riche, has long advocated for this project as a very visible symbol of the need to protect a beloved part of Rancho Mirage life. Lorraine and Randy Barnes, the current operators of the car wash, and Katie Stice of the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce played vital roles in the designation process. We are grateful to our Preservation Mirage members for their contributions that have provided the funding to make this possible,” according to Allen.


The ‘Pink Elephant’ sign is a favored spot for photographs along Highway 111, frequently appearing in tourism and social media posts. It has its origins in 1950s Seattle, where the first of several ‘Pink Elephants’ was designed by ‘Queen of Neon’ Beatrice Haverfield. In 1966 the ‘Rancho Super Car Wash’ in Rancho Mirage opened using a similar pink elephant sign to attract attention. Of the seven family-owned car washes, only the Rancho Mirage location is still in operation. In 2022, the two Seattle signs became historic landmarks.


The Rancho Super Carwash sign appeared on the City of Rancho Mirage Historic Resources Survey published in 2003 but has not received its full historic designation until now.

ABOUT PRESERVATION MIRAGE

Preservation Mirage began as an informal group of homeowners that met to exchange ideas and information about preserving midcentury architecture in Rancho Mirage, California. In late 2017, a board of directors was elected, and the preservation group became a registered 501 (c)(3) nonprofit. Its mission is to celebrate the architectural history of Rancho Mirage by promoting its protection and appreciation. Learn more at: https://preservationmirage.org


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Rancho Super Car Wash Photo Courtesy of the Palm Desert Historical Society

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