Former Erawan Garden luxury hotel with fire-breathing dragon designated an Indian Wells landmark – Desert Sun

For 35 years before being structurally redesigned to a Mediterranean Tuscan-theme, the Miramonte Resort & Spa had an Asian design and was known as the Erawan Garden Hotel.

One of its best known features was a fire-breathing dragon sculpture that occasionally brought firefighters out when the flame got too big. 

The luxury hotel officially opened Dec. 21, 1962, when the city was still about six years from incorporation.

The hotel paid homage to Thai architecture, with swooping roofs inspired by Thai temples, and guest accommodations all with Asian-themed décor. It was named for Bangkok’s world-known Erawan Hotel — one of the first modern hotels in Thailand, built to accommodate the expansion of international air travel.

The hotel on the southwest corner of Highway 111 and Indian Wells Lane was dedicated as the city’s fifth historic landmark on April 27 by the Indian Wells Historic Preservation Foundation.

former-erawan-garden-luxury-hotel-with-fire-breathing-dragon-designated-an-indian-wells-landmark-desert-sun-1 Former Erawan Garden luxury hotel with fire-breathing dragon designated an Indian Wells landmark - Desert Sun

The Erawan Garden Hotel in Indian Wells was built for about $3 million and designed by Willard C. Kruger of Santa Fe, New Mexico, who traveled with Thomas McMillan, president of the hotel corporation, to Bangkok “to stay at and study” that hotel’s features.

The hotel drew celebrities such as Desi Arnaz, Bob and Dolores Hope, Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner, Arnold Palmer, Steve Garvey and Greer Garson, to name a few.

The Erawan opened in Indian Wells in December 1962, with an event that drew guests “dressed to the nines,” according to the Indian Wells Historic Preservation Foundation.

In 1996, the Erawan was closed after it was bought by Marcus Hotels & Resorts. It reopened a year later as the Miramonte Resort & Spa. It has changed ownership a few more times over the years, with Lowe development and property management company buying the Miramonte out of foreclosure in 2020. Lowe is now in the final stages of an estimated $18 million refresh.

A place to call home

Many with personal memories of the Erawan attended the dedication, including the son of John Garvin, the hotel’s executive vice president and general manager when it opened until about 1966.

former-erawan-garden-luxury-hotel-with-fire-breathing-dragon-designated-an-indian-wells-landmark-desert-sun-2 Former Erawan Garden luxury hotel with fire-breathing dragon designated an Indian Wells landmark - Desert Sun

Garvin, who spent much of his life in the hotel business, moved his family from Los Angeles to Indian Wells around 1961 when McMillan asked him to be part of the Erawan, his son Roger Garvin recalled. The two men had served together in the Navy, he said.

His parents also made a trip to Bangkok to look at its Erawan.

The family lived at the Indian Wells hotel, in the manager’s quarters, Roger Garvin recalled.

“We lived on the second floor, right above where the lobby was, for the first couple of years,” said Garvin, who was about 10 years old when they moved to Indian Wells, and today lives with his wife in La Quinta.

“Then, they rented us a house right behind the hotel … and we lived there,” he said.

“I remember that it took a long time to build the hotel,” he said, and the family lived in Rancho Mirage while it was under construction. “My dad was on the construction site every day.”

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