Looking for something different to do this week? Check out these streaming programs that take you into the private spaces and historic places that make Palm Springs a true “Mecca of Modernism.”
Architectural Driving Tour of Palm Springs: a fun and informative “top down” architectural tour of Palm Springs from a 1966 convertible Mustang. Get a sneak peek inside a few of the best MCM homes in town! (45 min):
The popular video series returns with a brand-new edition, just for the Modernism Week Online Experience!
Come inside some of Palm Springs’ most significant homes. The video series will take you into *5 fabulous Palm Springs homes, where you will walk through the interiors, gardens and grounds and see what makes Palm Springs desert architecture and lifestyle unique. You’ll learn about important architectural and design details, unique furnishings and meet the homeowners or other special guests knowledgable about the property. Your host will be the curator of the selected homes, Modernism Week Board Member Maureen Erbe.
*The houses include The Morse Residence (by Hal Levitt, 1961), The Cahuilla Hills House by O’Donnell + Escalante (by Lance O’Donnell, 2009), The Southridge Glass House (by William Cody, 1963), Trina Turk’s Ship of the Desert (by Erle Webster and Adrian Wilson, 1936), and Martyn Lawrence Bullard’s Villa Grigio (by James McNaughton, 1963). Special thanks to presenting sponsor Dunn-Edwards.
The homes will be located in various neighborhoods in Palm Springs, all with unique architectural character and featuring a variety of architectural styles.
Thank you to our presenting sponsor Dunn-Edwards Paints. Cost: $45 – A digital keepsake tour program is included with your ticket purchase.
The organizer of this program is Modernism Week. This program is streaming through March 31, 2021.
This week on an unusually windy day, I had the pleasure of checking out another unique hotel.
Kathy, the gracious owner, escorted me around her delightfully large one-acre property and filled me in on the history surrounding the private 16 room boutique hotel nestled against the backdrop of the dramatic San Jacinto Mountains. After all, what’s a good hotel here without a story?
Originally designed by renowned modernist architect Albert Frey and built in 1960, the hotel re-opened in 2016, after a restoration by its current owners, Kathy and Gary Friedle, to its original mid-century modern design. The space is very charming and makes you feel at home. I think you might want to stay for more than one night. The outdoor space includes a lovely heated saltwater pool, the only Scandinavian Spa in the area including dry sauna, hot tub, seating areas and a Smeg retro fridge where guests are welcome to help themselves to the contents. A complimentary continental breakfast and sangria happy hour every day for guests. What’s not to love?
Bonus: I love that Gary concocts his own teas which guests also have the privilege of sampling from the cart. There’s even a Palm Springs blend which smells heavenly.
The Monkey Tree is located less than a mile from the hustle and bustle Charlie Farrel’s famed Racquet Club. The hotel is a classic example of mid-century modern design and was a get-away for the celebrities who wanted to have some time away from the public. Palm Springs lore has it that celebrity guests at The Monkey Tree Hotel have included: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Eric Clapton, Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder, and even a JFK and Marilyn visit (guarded at the private entrance of their suite by the secret service).
In 1995, Albert Frey contacted the then owners of the hotel to ask if he could come by for a visit. At the time, Frey was 92 years old and said that he had not visited the property since it was built. He rode his bike the four miles from Frey House II where he was living to the hotel in a white polyester pantsuit and burnt orange shirt, arriving dapper as always. As he toured the property, he shared his inspiration for the layout and design of the hotel with the current owners. Frey was fascinated by the San Jacinto Mountains and found great inspiration in them. He intended the dramatic slanting roof lines to be in harmony and pay homage to the mountains and the Indians.
ABOUT THE OWNERS (Kathy & Gary):
After obtaining her Master of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis in 1992, Kathy began her architecture career in New York City. She worked for Gensler for 20 years in both design and management roles. Her clients in New York included many prestigious law firms, a well-known California based talent agency and numerous advertising agencies.
Gary has been in the field of financial management for 25 years. He started his career working on a trading desk in New York City then worked with private wealth clients and most recently was the Chief Operating Officer of a private wealth management firm. Gary has a passion for long distance running and has participated in several (100-mile) ultra-marathons.
In 2015 an opportunity arose to purchase a boutique hotel in Palm Springs, and the timing and career change seemed right for them and their two teenage sons to try a new adventure on the west coast. After seeing the great architectural bones of The Monkey Tree hotel they dove in to the restoration of the mid-century modern property which had been largely closed to the public since 1988. Their first decision was to re-establish the original 1960 name of the hotel and to re-brand, and re-invigorate the property.
They did just that. I would definitely recommend this hotel.
I had the unexpected pleasure of visiting the unique and magnificent Mission Inn Hotel and Spa during this holiday season along with a splendid Festival of Lights that light up the hotel and surrounding areas. Located in Riverside, California (about a 90-minute drive from Palm Springs with little traffic) and with only two more days until Christmas, let’s just say that this helped get me into the spirit. These photos barely do it justice.
The Cornerstone of Downtown Riverside
“It is the most unique hotel in America. It’s a monastery, a museum, a fine hotel, a home, a boardinghouse, a mission, an art gallery and an aviator’s shrine. It combines the best features of all of the above. If you are ever in any part of California, don’t miss the famous Mission Inn of Riverside.” – Will Rogers
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, is a historic landmark hotel in downtown Riverside, California. Many presidents (including President Kennedy) stayed there and Richard Nixon married Pat at this hotel.
The story of the Mission Innstretches over more than a century and began with the Miller family, migrants to California from Tomah, Wisconsin. In 1874, civil engineer C.C. Miller arrived in Riverside, began work on a water system, and with his family, began a small boarding house in the center of town.
The Mission Inn’s rise to greatness began in the late 1800’s when wealthy Easterners and Europeans flocked to Riverside in search of both a warmer winter climate and also a way to invest in the area’s profitable citrus industry. By the 1890’s, Riverside was the richest city per capita in the United States. The consistent influx of tourists to Riverside made Frank Miller, the Master of the Inn, recognize the dire need for a grand resort hotel.
It was in that moment that the evolution of The Mission Inn began. Frank Miller opened the first wing, The Mission, of his new hotel in 1903, which was built in Mission-Revival style architecture and incorporated different structural elements of the 21 California Missions. Mr. Miller went on to add three more wings to his hotel: the Cloister, the Spanish and the final addition, the Rotunda wing, in 1931.
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 1996, dates back to 1876.
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.
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.
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.
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+.
A crown jewel of desert architecture, Ship of the Desert, is located here. Designer TrinaTurk (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.
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).
*Johnny Mercer wrote 1,500 songs and won 4 oscars. He’s probably most famous for writing Moon Riverfor 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.
It’s that time of year again….Palm Springs hosts it’s 14th annual signature event featuring midcentury modern architecture, interior, and landscape design, art and vintage culture from February 14-24, 2019.
Join us for modernist tours, talks, shows, exhibits, films, parties, and much much more.
What could be better than sipping martinis in a fabulous home with a view? On a Monday no less!
As part of Modernism Week and a love limit for martinis, I’m finally going to Martinis on the Mountain. I’ve heard about it, but every time I’m here it’s always sold out.
Tonight I’m prepared to step back in time at the historic O’Donnell House nestled high above Palm Springs with magnificent views of the valley below. Looking forward to live entertainment featuring the sounds of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, fab hors d’oeuvres and who knows what else.
The evening is also a fundraiser to benefit the Meals On Wheels Program and other programs and services of the Mizell Senior Center.
A bit of architectural history:
The house was built in 1925 for oil tycool Thomas O’Donnell and his wife. The home originally known as Ojo del Desierto (Eye of the Desert) was designed by architect and artist William Charles Tanner. The 4,200 square foot Mediterranean Revival-Monterey style home features four bedrooms and six fireplaces. In 2000, The O’Donnell House was acquired by its present owners who began its restoration to its former glory. The City of Palm Springs recognized it as a Historic Site in 1986 and in 2000, and in 2011 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Everyone agrees that my husband Don made the best martinis. He specialized in the dirty kind. Into a chilled martini glass he strained high quality vodka, a splash of vermouth (optional), a bit of olive juice (brine) from the largest olives available which gave it a bit of a cloudy appearance and lastly, three olives on a toothpick. And my limit was always one two.
It’s a Mod Mod World. I went to the Modernism Preview Party at the Convention Centre the other night. With a glass of wine in hand, amidst a collection of mid-century modern furnishings, art, jewelery and such, there was the crowd. I was too enthralled to even take photos. You’ll just have to use your imagination….but I’m not sure you can even imagine the getups many were wearing. And I’m referring to mostly the men.
I wanted to prove that I, as an individual, deserved a place in the world – Paul Revere Williams.
Focus on Palm Springs Modernism and Preserving the Legacy of Paul Revere Williams (1894-1980): Architect to the Stars…and Everyone Else.
“Expensive homes are my business and social housing is my hobby,” Williams once said.
One of my favorite months to be in Palm Springs is February, if only for the numerous events surrounding Modernism Week. A feast for the senses; especially the eyes.
The mission of Modernism Week is to celebrate and foster appreciation of midcentury architecture and design, as well as contemporary thinking in these fields, by encouraging education, preservation and sustainable modern living as represented in the greater Palm Springs area. But you don’t have to be here to appreciate it. But if you are here, you’ll certainly enjoy it!
“California represented an acceptance of both Williams, as an African-American and his work. Maybe Southern California was the only place he could have achieved all this.” -Robert Timme, dean of the USC School of Architecture
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz tapped Williams in 1954 to design their Palm Springs residence. The Ball Arnaz home is an excellent example of his uncanny ability to transform a client’s dreams into substance.
Frank Sinatra also hired the architect to build a house. Williams recalled the experience designing for the crooner as particularly challenging.
“Frank Sinatra wanted a bedroom; press a button and the doors open to the patio. Press another button and the bed rolls out into the patio.” Ahhhh….. if you can, why not?
In a nutshell….
Paul Revere Williams is an important part of Southern California’s architectural legacy. He’s well known for his sumptuous residential designs for movie stars, entertainment and business leaders, mastering a range of styles from Southern Colonial to Spanish Colonial, from Hollywood Regency to Modern. While residential design would remain an important part of his practice, in the course of his five-decade career, Williams designed thousands of buildings of all types, served on many municipal, state and federal commissions, and was active in political and social organizations earning the admiration and respect of his peers.
OLD LAS PALMAS – an intimate glimpse into old Palm Springs
Thanks to a friend of mine I had the privilege of visiting eight outstanding homes & gardens as part of Modernism week. This is the first time that these unique homes have been opened to the public. The little enclave known as Old Las Palmas has always been recognized as one of the premier neighborhoods in Palm Springs and many of the older estates and homes have been updated and enhanced over the years. As we tiptoed through the tulips Mary Pickford’s estate, the home of Mary Martin, a home Howard Hughes had built for himself (a long time residence of film director Howard Hawks) Liberace’s house and others, we wore little slippers to cover our shoes from tracking dirt through the houses. Each home was as interesting and magnificent as the next. Of course I sneaked in a few selfies!
A little info about a lotta glamour
Old Las Palmas boasts the largest number of celebrity homes in Palm Springs, dating back to the mid-1920’s. Some of the well-known celebrities who have lived here include Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Todd, Liberace, Mary Martin, Goldie Hawn & Kurt Russell, Lily Tomlin, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Debbie Reynolds, Kirk Douglas, Edgar Bergen, Samuel Goldwyn, Edward G. Robinson, Clarke Gable, Gene Autry, George Hamilton, Harold Robbins, George Randolph Hearst, Ronald and Nancy Reagon and countless others. The many, world-renowned architects who have built homes for their clients here include William Krisel, Cliff May, Donald Wexler and E. Stewart Williams.
Among the splattering of residents the area is alive and kicking with current Hollywood icons such as Leonardo DiCaprio who owns the house Dinah Shore used to live in. We drove by but it was unfortunately not part of our home & garden tour.
The Old Las Palmas Neighborhood Organization makes sure to protect and preserve its special heritage.
photos: d. king (while lovely to look at, these photos only reflect a bit of the elegance and don’t really capture the expanse of these charming homes). Also, I took many photos inside the homes and realize that it would overwhelm one post.) I hope you enjoy them nonetheless.
“As an Architect I have the job of transforming hopes and dreams into wood, glass, steel and concrete. But if the dreams aren’t there, there is very little I can do.”
– a line from the The Architect
Last night I attended the VIFF premiere of a new movie called “The Architect”. I wanted to see a light comedy after the heaviness of the last several movies. Something with a design element to it. The Architect was reminiscent of “The Cable Guy” starring Jim Carrey but only in the sense that the architect (played by James Frain) was annoyingly cloying in his attempt to help out, thus getting on the nerves of his employers as he tries to infiltrate their lives.
The movie was written and directed by Jonathan Parker who was in attendance to answer questions from the audience as was one of the main characters, Eric McCormack (Will & Grace, Broadway, etc.) Parker Posey plays his wife in this bizarre tale of obsession and deceit when a couple (played by McCormack & Posey) hire a supposedly top notch visionary architect to build their dream house right after buying a tear-down. But what they’re not prepared for is the architect’s brash ego informing them to follow his own designs and desires. The wife, a creative type of her own, gets swept up by the architect as creative designer – a stark contrast to her husband’s very practical side. A husband by the way, quite skeptical of the intentions of the architect in question.
You begin to realize who the dream house really belongs to – The Architect.
What’s funny is that Eric McCormack (originally from Vancouver) is building a home here and his own architect was at the screening. He pointed him out in the audience at the Vancouver Playhouse. He said if that wasn’t enough he also hired an interior designer.
Some lines from the film:
I don’t know why people hire architects and then tell them what to do
I believe it is just as important to design a chicken coup as it is to design a cathedral
7,000 years of ancient art, from the end of the Stone Age to the fall of the Roman Empire.On all my previous visits to L.A. I never ventured to the Getty Villa until now. I really didn’t realize what I was missing and it’s quite fascinating especially if you’re into antiquities. The grounds alone are worth the outing, and the majority of art and sculptures at this Malibu hilltop hideaway are original pieces with a few recreations.
The educational center and museum is dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria. The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Villa features more than 1,200 antiquities from the permanent collection, as well as changing and loan exhibitions.
The villa itself is a recreation of an ancient Roman country house that offers a taste of life in the first century A.D.
The gardens are inspired by ancient models, with species from the ancient world.
Of course a visit to any museum is not complete without checking out the gift shop.
*The Discovery of the Victorious Youth (above photo): Very few bronze statues remain from antiquity. The Victorious Youth was recovered from an ancient shipwreck in international waters in the Adriatic Sea. It was probably on its way to Rome, where many Greek sculptures were taken to be displayed in cities and villas. The statue was found in the 1960’s and had lost its feet. Otherwise, he’s not in bad shape.