Movie stars and presidents discovered and flocked to Palm Springs for a reason: the allure of crystal blue skies, endless sun, statuesque palms and starry nights set against the mythic backdrop of the San Jacinto Mountains all create a magical feeling that must be experienced first hand to be fully comprehended. Add the close proximity to San Diego, marvelous concentration of retro modern architecture and boutique hotels to the mix and Palm Springs becomes a perfect weekend getaway destination.
The best way to learn about and appreciate the culturally rich history of the town and its architecture is to take a Double Decker Bus Tour during Palm Springs Modernism Week. This annual event celebrates mid-century modern design. The tour passes innumerable celebrity homes, covers the gamut of iconic modern architecture and Hollywood history. Following are a couple entertaining Frank Sinatra-related anecdotes:
In 1947, Rat Pack founder Sinatra strolled into the office of architect E. Stewart Williams eating an ice cream cone and requested the architect to build an elaborate Georgian home in the desert. Williams presented two designs: the inappropriate one commissioned and a modernist one. Fortunately Sinatra opted for the latter and “Twin Palms” was constructed. At the time, the home was located away from the main drag in the middle of barren desert. Sinatra would fly his private Lear Jet in, park across the street from his estate, then in true Mad Men style hoist a flag to alert his neighbors he was in town and invite them over for cocktail hour.
Sinatra’s buddy Elvis Presley planned to marry Priscilla at a then futuristic Palm Springs getaway. Neighboring gossip columnist (think pre-social media era) Rona Barrett leaked this story to the press. When the paparazzi swarmed, Elvis borrowed Sinatra’s jet to fly to Las Vegas and hold the ceremony there.
Palm Springs is enjoying a renaissance of architectural tourism. Investors are financing major renovation projects and even new construction. The town is evolving into an even more desirable travel destination. A visit tying in with Modernism Week will not disappoint.