By Crystal Harrell
Modernism Week’s annual 11-day festival features more than 350 events, including the Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale, tours of iconic homes in more than 30 neighborhoods, and the popular Signature Home Tour on both weekends. Also offered are picturesque double-decker bus tours that take travelers through some of the most historic and signature locations that embody Palm Springs.
This open-air double decker bus tour is offered consistently over the course of each Modernism Week, the Premier Double Decker Architecture Bus Tour continues to be a sell-out event on most days, and one of the most popular offerings during Modernism Week. If you’re taking part in Modernism Week for the first time, the Architecture Bus Tour is a great primer to get you familiar with some of the different neighborhoods, and the stories behind some of the more notable buildings around Palm Springs.
Stories behind the homes, the histories of some of the more famous residents—like Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate, and Marilyn Monroe’s bungalow—all have the added advantage of some height to catch a further glimpse over the fence. Tourists can even sneak a peek at Richard Neutra’s Kaufman House; seeing the stones and textures and concretes is lots of fun from a new vantage point from the bus.
Elvis Presley’s Honeymoon Hideaway estate, also known as The House of Tomorrow, is prominently featured on the tour and was originally owned by Robert Alexander who is also the architect responsible for the home’s design. Located at the bottom of the San Jacinto Mountains, the Honeymoon Hideaway is a 5,000 square foot home and has three levels, four bedrooms, and five bathrooms. Located at 1350 Ladera Circle in Palms Springs, California, this house can hold up to 180 guests at a time. The home has a large, pentagon shaped pool at the back of the house, hidden by trees and other foliage surrounding the property. Other outdoor features include a beautifully kept garden, a charming waterfall fixture, a fruit orchard, and even a tennis court. The entire house was skillfully restored in the 1990’s with the design remaining true to its 1960’s flare. As an added bonus, from the back of the house, you can see Marylin Monroe’s former dwelling.
Another notable feature of the architecture tour is the Twin Palms, also known as the Frank Sinatra House, at 1148 East Alejo Rd. This is a mid-century modern house in the Movie Colony–El Mirador neighborhood, designed by E. Stewart Williams, to a commission from American singer and actor Frank Sinatra. The 4,500 square-foot, four-bedroom, seven-bath estate is best known for its piano-shaped swimming pool, and the pool house comes equipped with a kitchenette and “his and hers” with cabana showers. The Twin Palms Frank Sinatra estate compound includes a canopy skylight entryway past the pool to the house, and the great room’s huge sliding glass doors open up to an expansive patio. Tall floor-to-ceiling windows create an open panoramic feel to the rooms, and Sinatra designed his bedroom in a separate wing in order “to get away from it all, but not too far away.”
The residence has been completely restored with vintage designer furnishings and features. It includes a 1950’s recording system installed by Valentino Electronics in Hollywood, similar to the one Frank used to record songs at Twin Palms. The snow-white kitchen is the original design but upgraded with Viking appliances and St. Charles cabinetry. And of course, a property-wide sound system belts out Sinatra tunes upon request. Fun memorabilia and personal photos on the walls highlight Sinatra’s career and his life in the desert.
Modernism Week is a community supported nonprofit dedicated to education, preservation and appreciation of modernist architecture and design in Palm Springs. By taking part in the Architecture Tours by Modernism Week, guests are not only choosing the best, they are helping to preserve and promote modern architecture for generations to come.