Palm Springs has long been a retreat for those who enjoy the beauty and serenity of the desert. For much of the year the climate is spectacular and even during the summer, which can be scorchingly hot, the balmy desert nights are usually (but not always!) so wonderful they make up for whatever sufferings the days may have brought. Palm Springs and its surrounding environs have had many famous residents and visitors throughout the years from movie stars to captains of industry and even ex-presidents. The area is also home to some great historic architecture and there are number of places that were designed by some very talented and well-known architects. I thought you would enjoy seeing just a few completely random homes, hotels and apartments designed by some very talented practitioners assembled for your enjoyment.
CASA PALMERAS APARTMENTS – PAUL R. WILLIAMS
Paul R. Williams is without a doubt, one of the finest architects Southern California has ever produced. Although not known for his Spanish designs, Williams proved he was equally adept at any architectural style. 1928’s Palmair/Casa Palmeras was one of the legendary architect’s earlier works and exhibits all the charms and well laid-out design characteristics we came to expect from the talented Mr. Williams.
While size really does matter, Gordon B. Kaufmann proves there are always exceptions as seen here in this charming one bedroom abode designed for Walter Morgan in La Quinta.
THE OASIS HOTEL – FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT, JR.
Poor Lloyd Wright will forever have to live in the shadow of his famous father, which is unfortunate because he was a very talented architect in his own right. It is interesting to imagine what critics would make of his work if they didn’t have to filter it through the prism of comparisons between the work of father and son. In 1923, Wright designed a small hotel in Palm Springs called the Oasis (completed 1924-5) and I think the design was very exciting and boldly took its place against the stark background of Mt. San Jacinto. The main tower section of the hotel is still there, sort of, but it has been greatly encroached upon and today is in a sad state, hidden away unnoticed right there off Palm Canyon Drive. But it’s still there and as long as it is there is hope for a restoration.
THE M.J. HARRISON RESIDENCE – VAN PELT & LIND
Garret Van Pelt and George Lind designed a number of residences throughout the Palm Springs area during the 1930’s. One of their most striking designs was the desert hacienda the created for Mr. and Mrs. M.J. Harrison. While the design was ostensibly based on the age old precedents of the Spanish haciendas, the overall effect feels thoroughly modern with the unusual slatted patio roofs creating a distinct look that is anything but old school.
THE EL ENCANTO APARTMENTS – MARSHALL P. WILKINSON
Marshall P. Wilkinson may not be well known today, but was actually a rather competent Hollywood architect who designed homes for some of the elite of Hollywood in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Alan and Sue Carol Ladd, Fred Astaire, Russ Columbo, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Carole Lombard can all be counted as residents of Marshall P. Wilkinson designed homes.
THE ANDREAS CANYON CLUB
Originally an exclusive private club on 1,100 acres around and in spectacular Andreas Canyon, the Andreas Canyon Club was limited to 25 members who according the the venerable Harry Carr were, “a group of old Californians who have rescued this canyon from the tenderfeet who have made a mess and a hodgepodge of the rest.
“The houses in Andreas Canyon are the best note of architecture in the desert. They are built as the Indians build. A quarter of a mile away you would swear not a house was built there so well do they blend into the hills. They stand on little separated headlands looking down a silver arroyo that curves around age old palms.”
GUTHRIE HOUSE – VAN PELT & LIND
Another effort by this firm and an example of showing how a fine desert house could be built at relatively low cost.
H.A. SPAREY RESIDENCE – GERARD R. COLCORD
Gerard Colcord was an excellent architect who knew how to work in any number of period architectural styles. Here he adapts the Monterey Colonial style for desert living to beautiful effect. Sadly, this home has since been demolished.
A HOME IN TAHQUITZ DESERT ESTATES – ALFRED HEINEMAN
Heineman may have been better known for his work in the Craftsman style but he proved he could work just as well in the Spanish in this design for a small but exceedingly charming house planned for Tahquitz Desert Estates.