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The Way to Live:
Modern Residences for Every Budget and Taste
Pride and Joy:
Civic and Commercial Designs in the Public Square
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Pride and Joy:
Civic and Commercial Designs in the Public Square

Del Marcos Hotel - 1947
del marcos hotel

Hotels and Inns

Since the introduction of the car, hotels became a common way of experiencing the Palm Springs getaway lifestyle. The Oasis Hotel and El Mirador set the standard in the 1920’s, followed by other early interpretations in the 1930’s and 1940’s including the Viceroy Palm Springs, a villa style resort that still offers spa getaways and gorgeous landscapes. The Del Marcos Hotel offered affordable lodging in a stunning setting at the base of the San Jacinto mountains. Later, the motels of the 1950’s including the Biltmore, served as compact resorts, offering simple luxury and easily accommodating cars, allowing you to drive right up to your room. The properties featured upscale amenities such as color television, Modern furniture and swimming pools. Motels in Palm Springs were designed by the same group of architects that were plying their trade in residential, commercial and civic work. There are motel designs by Albert Frey, Stewart Williams, William Cody, John Lautner and William Krisel—all luminaries in the Palm Springs architectural set. In Palm Springs, motels were more than stopover points, they were destinations unto themselves, often requiring amenities like kitchenettes, private gardens for individual rooms and more expansive public and pool spaces. They also required more extensive offerings for dining than many of their roadside counterparts.

Bullocks Department Store - 1947
bullocks dept store

Public Architecture—Commercial and Civic Designs
The cheap, mass-produced building materials that looked at home in 20th century cities were an ideal match for practicality, flexibility and cost in building for the commercial sector. A bevy of architects were working on shopping centers, airports, restaurants, churches, gas stations, schools, offices and the magnificent tramway that whisks visitors into an Alpine station and restaurant at the top of Mount San Jacinto(Cygelman p. 23) In Palm Springs, retail centers and shops employed Modernist design elements liberally. A classic example of a retail center that employed Modern design, Bullocks Department store, had their flagship in Pasadena and an outpost in Palm Springs. Other high end retailers including Robinsons, Magnins and Saks Fifth Avenue opened in Palms Springs to cater to wealthy vacationers. The Bullocks store was an example of California Modern, an interpretation of the international style adapted for commercial use. The design featured decorative concrete screens to break up the boxy international style aesthetic and featured upscale furnishings for the well to do shopper. The store consisted of two story irregularly shaped wings and a host of embellishments, including ornamental framed windows. Another noted retail project was the Town and Country Center, designed by Paul R. Williams and A. Quincy Jones in 1948. The shops featured a landscaped courtyard surrounded by storefronts, a design much replicated today in ‘Town Centers’ across America. It housed an Eames appointed restaurant and included a bank and an array of shops, along with lush gardens in the courtyards. Banks also invested in impressive architecture to convey authority, and in Palm Springs, that was done with oversize statements in concrete structures including the Coachella Savings and Loans building and the Santa Fe Savings and Loan.

Palm Springs City Hall - 1952
palm springs city hall

As residential and commercial architecture picked up the Modernist themes, civic architecture followed suit. John Porter Clark, Albert Frey, Stewart and Roger Williams collaborated or worked independently on the Palm Springs City Hall, the Police Department, the aerial Tramway and the Palm Springs High School—projects known for coming in on time and under budget. Schools offered a source of expression for Modernist ideals without having to commit to architectural principles. The bare bones tenets of Modernism, emphasizing function and simplicity, were compatible with community school boards interested in clean, cheap schools in growing communities.

The Way to Live: Modern Residences for Every Budget and Taste