If you’re going to pick just one city for your mid-century modern vacation, that city is Palm Springs. Don’t take my word for it— the National Register of Historic Places recognized Palm Springs as having the largest collection of mid-century modern architecture in the United States.
Today, Palm Springs welcomes in throngs of tourists every year for its annual Modernism Week celebration of all things mid-century, from architecture to art to furniture. And of course, it’s enjoyed a boom from the click-happy Instagram crowd as well.
So how did Palm Springs get to be the Mecca of all things Modern?
Palm Springs’ tourism tradition started in the early 20th century when wealthy clientele came for the restorative dry heat sanitariums and soaks in the natural hot springs. By 1930, Palm Springs had built its first spa, a tradition going strong in Palm Springs today.
It drew the attention of the stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age who were forbidden by contract to travel more than 100 miles from their studio posts. Stars like Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, and Dean Martin started making Palm Springs their home away from home.
And this, of course, attracted the country’s hottest architects, thrilled for the opportunity to go bold and build for major clients with stellar taste, not to mention, deep wallets. The Desert Modern style was born.
Adapting to the brutal climate of the high desert, the style flaunted the best of midcentury opulence— sweeping roof lines, open-design plans, breeze blocks, and vibrant accent colors. Between 1947 and 1965, over 2,500 homes were built in Palm Springs. Albert Frey, David Wexler, Richard Neutra, William Krisel and Dan Palmer, and John Lautner are only a handful of big names creating the look and vibe of midcentury Palm Springs.
Today, the midcentury modern style shines in Palm Springs’s hotels, allowing for a curated modern experience at every price point.
Built in 1947, the Del Marcos Hotel was William F. Cody’s first Palm Springs commission. Made of native desert stone and redwood, the Del Marcos has retained its midcentury sensibilities with neutral flagstones contrasting against bright orange and blue accents. The Del Marcos is a pet-friendly, 21 and over resort that comes with bike rental, wifi, continental breakfast, and happy hour.
CALIENTE TROPICS RESORTFrom its sweeping A-frame entrance carport to the Polynesian inspired totems scattered along the buildings and pool area, Caliente Tropics brings some serious tiki flair. This 1964 Rat Pack favorite recently got a $2 million makeover and today is the home of the annual Tiki Caliente weekend of tiki fashion, music, cocktails, and all things pop-Polynesian.
The recently renovated Orbit In was designed in 1957 by Herbert Burns as an original “ultra-modern motor court inn.” Today, the Orbit In continues its decades long tradition of a complimentary “Orbitini” cocktail and wine hour, as well as many of its original features like vintage Dwyer metal kitchens, built in wall clocks, and original vintage bedside lamps
Originally built by John Lautner in 1947 as the Desert Hot Springs Motel, built for as a getaway destination for silent film director Lucien Hubbard, the winner of the very first “Best Picture” Oscar. The property was renovated on a massive scale in 2008 while carefully retaining Launter’s midcentury desert vision.