Hidden Paradise: The Mesa

Hidden Paradise is the very appropriate tour name given by the Palm Springs Historical Society to refer to The Mesa; an eclectic and beautifully secluded hillside neighborhood.  I took all of these photos two days ago, on the last day of the tour for this season.  It was a hot one….and I’m not referring to just the tour.

Beyond this gate was the home of actor Joseph Cotten (Citizen Kane, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte among many other well known films).

I was invited to go on this relatively new tour, not being aware of how incredibly close in proximity The Mesa is to where I reside. I’m really happy I chose this walking tour from several the society offers because it’s another hidden jewel that I’m told many locals don’t even know about.  Even though some of the homes you can see from a distance, you may not know how to get there.

As they say on their website it is truly a slice of paradise. The amazing variety of architecture  ranges from the romantic Spanish Colonial Revival of the 1920’s to today’s dramatic contemporary styles.  Even one original mid-century modern home that stands out.

Max Factor (the makeup maven) family mansion.  The gate was open; it felt somewhat inviting.

With a glamorous past it has long been home to the Hollywood elite (Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Cher, Joseph Cotten, Henry Mancini, *Johnny Mercer, Jack Warner of Warner Brothers Studios, among others). Many have been celebrities from the World of Music – singers, composers, lyricists and musicians.  Even the cartoonist Lee Holley, known for Denis the Menace and comic strip Bugs Bunny who passed away in his home here just last year.  Our guide told us that he was so friendly he’d give away some of his original cartoon drawings.

Home of cartoonist Lee Holley – a fairly modest home here.

There are many vacation rentals here now too.  One home had no outside windows at all in the front to keep passersby from peering inside.  But I’m telling you; never judge a house from the outside.

Unless you’re lucky enough to get an invite to one of Barry Manilow’s fundraising shindigs, you can see his home and that of his friend Suzanne Somers from the outside only.  However the area itself which is larger than it appears is striking just to walk around and  see the gorgeous gardens.  In fact, it was really more of a garden/landscape tour than home tour – walking around for 2 hours+.

You can see the home of Suzanne Somers in the distance.  She said she can see Barry Manilow in one of the rooms of his home (which is a compound) – way up on the opposite side of the hill.

A crown jewel of desert architecture, Ship of the Desert, is located here.  Designer Trina Turk (love her clothes) resides here.  I’ve seen this home from afar many times. I know a few people who’ve been to a cocktail party inside (there are no hallways) during Modernism week.  They referred to Turk as a lovely and gracious host.

Ship of the Desert. d. king
This home appeared in this magazine in 1936.
and many years later

Michael, our patient tour guide was very knowledgeable about the homes and the people who lived/lives here and entertained us with some anecdotes and juicy gossip.

I highly recommend one of the walking tours (only $20) when visiting or even living in Palm Springs.

Other tours the Historical Society offers are Golden Era (Hollywood Homes of Old Las Palmas), Inns, Architecture and Glamour, The Tennis Club (Celebrity Haven), Rat Pack Playground (and Frank Sinatra’s Neighborhood in the Movie Colony), among Private Tours (Architecture gems and Palm Springs Highlights).

See the 3 guard dogs? As easy as it appears to jump this fence…I don’t think so.  I wonder what lies behind that door….Narnia?

*Johnny Mercer wrote 1,500 songs and won 4 oscars.  He’s probably most famous for writing Moon River for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Also the Days of Wine and Roses, Autumn Leaves, etc.  He was a big fan of Barry Manilow and near the end of his life he donated all of his songs to Manilow.

I plan to go on other tours next season.

https://pshistoricalsociety.org/collections/walking-tours

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s