Wednesday, February 27, 2013

#psmw palm springs modernism week: the hedge tour

Back again. I know you are wondering, "Seven posts. When. Will. It. End." It ends when I run out of stuff to show you. That's when it ends. What do we have below?

It is a hedge. That's right. We took a two and a half hour bus tour of Palm Springs, about sixty percent of which was spent trying to peer through hedges of very private and very expensive mid-century modern properties. Kind of an annoying tease.

I almost didn't post this tour, but thought, "We did it. They can do it." Not that the buildings and homes weren't interesting. They really were. But the bus went fast and the guide spoke fast and we have almost no notes that go with these pictures.

Cool bus, huh? It cracked me up that the residents of Palm Springs all wave to the tourists on the bus and we all wave back. Palm Springs is such a truly welcoming place to modernists.

Now for the tour pictures. What is most impressive is that Palm Springs is a town caught in a moment of time. It was built up primarily in the fifties and sixties, and then no more new construction. Almost the whole town is mid-century modern, with a smattering of Spanish Mediterranean.

First we were off down Highway 111 through the downtown area. Almost every building is mid-century modern. Many are for lease. Palm Springs took a bit of a beating during the recession, but seems to be coming back nicely. However, real estate is still a value in this area.

This building was pointed out as being something famous. So take note.

Below is a bank building that the Palm Springs Modernism Committee has purchased for a museum or something. Probably a Frey, I think. Heck i don't know.

Update: More help from Brooke of MidCenturyObsession in comments, "The Chase building with the loop-de-loop front (that's a technical term I just coined) is the Coachella Valley Savings & Bank Loan No.3. Built in 1960 by Stewart Williams."

Another famous bank building. All blue tile mosaic. Built in 1959 and designed by Victor Gruen Associates.

I really liked the block wall on this one. Probably another bank building!

This is a Frey for sure.

Great front doors. We saw a lot of nice front doors.

Spectacular entrance.

Bonus: gate AND hedges.

Here is that Swiss Chalet style again.

Emergency phone call update from Mom (getting a lot of help on this post): This style is called "Swiss Miss." I Googled it to be sure. She's right. Of course she's right.

Okay super famous home of a star. Pretty sure. Or done by a famous architect.

Update: Answer from Donna in the comments below. This was Elvis and Priscilla Presley's Honeymoon Hideaway and originally designed and built by William Krisel for Robert Alexander as his honeymoon hideaway. There is a little online Palm Springs tour here.

Gates and small hedges. Another star's home. Or rich person. Or both.

An update from Clarke in comments:  "That's the Kaufmann House, Richard Neutra, 1946. Perhaps the best known modern house on earth."  How embarrassing. And I love Neutra. Researching the house a bit, it is still owned privately (e.g. rich person), and it has been owned by stars (e.g. Barry Manilow). So aside from not knowing the architect, can I get a little credit?

The famous Tramway Gas Station. Definitely an Albert Frey.

Even the 7-Elevens are mid-century.

We buzzed around the Movie Colony seeing hedge after hedge. This is the original area the movie stars in the 40's and 50's moved into. They were all hanging around together, having cocktails. Apparently the low lifes from the LA area didn't know that the place was filled with stars.

A gate and a wall, no hedge.

Charming little houses.

Perhaps a Frey as well?

A mid-century modern church! Can we stop and look around? No?

Well, that is the end of our tour. Pretend you just spent 2.5 hours on a bus with a brief stop at the Tramway. And really, pretty much just saw the tops of houses for $75.00. Each.

Unsolicited Advice for Palm Springs Modernism Week: Break the tour into two different halves for half the price each. Honestly, it is too long. The last forty-five minutes feels like a hostage situation. And let people know it is really a good tour to orient yourself to the city and the cool little neighborhoods and pockets of architecture. But not a good tour to poke around. Consider adding a handout and map so we have a list of the highlights we saw. In case we can't take pictures and notes at the same time.

Additional note: As I was writing and posting all this, I downloaded the Palm Springs Modern Mid-Century Architecture Tours app to my iPad so I could identify what I could tell were some very famous buildings and homes. It took FOREVER. This is a big app. See more about the app here. The app has photos and details about 80+ mid-century landmarks. Only $4.99. But to be perfectly truthful, I am having problems with the app crashing frequently so I cannot identify the homes above, as I have an extremely poor memory (do you get the mid-century modern remodel analogy?). To the Palms Springs Modern Committee's credit, I have an ANCIENT original iPad which could be the problem. **sigh**

Related #PSMW Posts


  1. "Gates and small hedges. Another star's home. Or rich person. Or both."
    that's the kaufmann house, richard neutra, 1946. perhaps the best known modern house on earth.

    1. Thank you Clark for the link! Now I can see inside. I have updated above. And don't make too much fun of me since the house is still owned privately (rich person), and has been owned by stars. :)

    2. No way! I would be a hypocrite if I made fun. Just thought you might like to know! ;

  2. The Chase building with the loop-de-loop front (that's a technical term I just coined)is the Coachella Valley Savings & Bank Loan No.3. Built in 1960 by Stewart Williams. (Thanks $5 flyer!)
    Appreciate the feedback on the tour. I think after reading all of your posts on the week, that people will know better how they want to tackle next year. Awesome!

    1. Yay Brooke! Thank you $5 flyer indeed as $5 app wasn't cutting it.

  3. This is great - now I have to look at some of your other posts, especially on your modernism tour. Thanks for sharing. The architecture is really something, though I have to look more at which landscapes work and which do not.

    1. I was taking a close look at landscapes vs. dwellings as well as our yard needs a bit of work and is not completely harmonious with the house. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Just found a web site that identifies some of the houses in your post.
    The house just above the Kaufmann house appears to be the honeymoon hideaway of Priscella and Elvis. I love to picture all the stars tooling around P.S. in their convertibles: Cary Grant, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe (she and Joe D. had a home here), Frank Sinatra, and countless others. Palm Springs was THE PLACE.

    1. Yes, it was THE place. And thank you for the help identifying homes in the post. I got a lot of help on this post (and sorely needed it).

  5. I went on the same tour and tried to take notes and photos at the same time too! You are way ahead of me though as my article is still sitting in editing and most of my photos have heads in them. It was fun revisiting the tour from your vantage point. Love me some Palm Springs!

    1. Crazy. Yes, there was no taking photos and notes. You either get one or the other. And I had plenty of heads. Some very strategic cropping removed them.


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