The Story Behind the Starlight
The Starlight Villas have a rich history dating back to their founding in 1960. At the time, Elvis was king of the airwaves, "Psycho" and "Spartacus" topped the box office, and chrome cars sporting flashy taillights ruled the roads. The remote desert village of Joshua Tree was still 34 years away from being declared a national park and had a sparse population of roughly 2000 residents.
Attracted to the quiet beauty of the desert, a daring Los Angeles Entrepreneur named Leota made the bold move of relocating to Joshua Tree. Undeterred by convention, Leota purchased the conveniently located plot of land on Chollita road, hired a builder, and the estate that would become the Starlight Villas was born. Later married to William Bell, an early executive of the United Parcel Service, together they transformed both the property and the community around them.
Over several decades, the compound was vastly expanded from the original single 2200 square foot lodge to 8 villas and over 10,000 square ft of living spaces, fully walled and gated. The getaway was not advertised or marketed and instead served mostly as a locally known retreat that hosted friends of the family, important community members, and visiting professors to Joshua Tree. Leota had a penchant for designing living spaces that were both comfortable and practical and she had impeccable taste in design. Many of the original vintage wood furnishings and seating she selected are still present today and have been assimilated into the updated Villas.
Throughout her 55 year residency in Joshua Tree, Leota Bell became locally renowned as one of the most caring and generous benefactors to the community. Her charitable trusts provided vast financial support to a number of causes including Copper Mountain College, the Hi-Desert Medical Facility, the Hospice of Morongo Basin, the Senior Support Center in Yucca Valley and the Morongo Basin Unity Home for Women.
In 2005, Leota single handedly ensured the building of a local 40,000 square ft multi-use sports complex, that is now enjoyed by thousands of students in Copper Mountain College. Leota passed in 2010 at the age of 97. A celebration of her life was held at the "Bell Center" auditorium which her support made a reality.
In 2012, the Starlight Villas were passed along to new ownership. Since, we have successfully repurposed the historic Bell Estate into an exclusive and convenient place for visitors around the world to experience the wonder of Joshua Tree Park.