Last year we had such a good time exploring Palm Springs, we decided to visit again during Modernism Week in February. Palm Springs was a getaway spot for Hollywood stars, beginning in the 1940s and then for those who could afford a vacation home. The style of architecture, mid-century Modernism, dominates the town. Mid-twentieth century, that is. Mission–style homes and new LEED certified complexes also make up the architecture of Palm Springs.
Tiki without Tacky – Royal Hawaiian Estates
Our first tour was of the Royal Hawaiian Estates, a small complex designed by architects Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison. Built in 1960, the tiki elements are being restored and the tour raised money to restore more. We were able to see several units. The owners have lovingly restored the interiors and decorated to the time. Homes are small – originally designed for vacation living. Today, they are totally livable for the year-round residents.
Seven Lakes Country Club
Palm Springs has many golf courses and this tour was spread around the course and seven lakes. Also designed by Richard Harrison, it opened in 1965. The course was designed by Ted Robinson. Most homes were done in the mid-century mode and beautifully restored – some had ‘caved’ to our more modern tastes. Slightly more spacious than Royal Hawaiian Estates, many boasted a secluded courtyard, with golf course and mountain views.
Walter and Leonore Annenberg built a 25k sq ft home, 5 bedroom guest house, 9 course golf course, and filled 200 acres against the desert of Palm Springs. They hosted U.S. Presidents and heads of state. Walter Annenberg made huge amounts of money on TV Guide and Seventeen, yet they were widely philanthropic. The Trust, they left behind opened a center at Sunnylands last year. We walked around the center and gardens and were then given a tour of the Annenberg’s Sunnylands. I would have loved more time with their art collection, but the real paintings are at the Met in New York. That’s another trip.
At The Saguro, a converted Holiday Inn, we visited an exhibit about Pan American Airlines. Pan Am created air travel after World War II and made it an elegant affair. For the exhibit, a former employee displayed his collection of Pan Am paraphenlia from ashtrays to uniforms. Looking back in time was a treat – to when air travel was exciting fun and products were well made. Imaging stewardess uniforms created by Edith Head and Evan Picone. The Saguro hotel is a delight itself, with bright colors inside and out.
Old Las Palmas
We took a stroll around one of the neighborhoods near downtown Palm Springs. Many seem to have taken on the secrecy, privacy and security of Hollywood stars, but they make it look so beautiful. Most of Palm Springs is flat and sometimes the sidewalks disappear, but the traffic is light – just heads up on a walk.
More next time on the natural beauty of the Palm Springs area.
For last years visit, click on Walking in Palm Springs – the modernism pictures are at the end.
Check out the Palm Springs Modernism site – there might be events in October – don’t forget to sign up for next February.
Text by Lynn Millar
Photos by Mike Millar