Beyond the ‘Elvis Hideaway’

Overlooked video documentary explores the true legacy of the ‘House of Tomorrow’
Fridays on the Homefront
'Back to the House of Tomorrow': well-researched and produced video production tells the Alexander story with sensitivity. All photos (except where noted) courtesy 'Back to the House of Tomorrow' producers and Studio 111, LLC

No visit to Palm Springs, that California vacationland where mid‐century architectural wonders abound, would be complete without a drive to 1350 Ladera Circle, home of the fabulously Space‐Age 'House of Tomorrow.'

Designed by architect William Krisel, this renowned custom home was built in 1960 for Palm Springs developer Robert 'Bob' Alexander and his wife, Helene.

Today a Palm Springs designated 'Class 1 Historic Site,' the house blends a tragic past with an intriguing history, as explored by filmmaker and director Simcha Shtull in her laudable documentary video 'Back to the House of Tomorrow.'

 

Fridays on the Homefront
Designed by architect William Krisel (above left), the renowned House of Tomorrow was built in 1960 for Palm Springs developer Robert 'Bob' Alexander (above right) and his wife, Helene.

The documentary made its debut at Modernism Week 2023, but seems to have been lost in the shuffle during the year that followed. Our readers ought to check it out.

'Back to the House of Tomorrow' connects the story of the famous house through a series of interviews. Jill Alexander Kitnick, daughter of Bob and Helene, returns to the home (along with son Zak) where Jill lived as a child with her celebrity parents, before Jill's entire family was tragically lost in 1965.

 

Fridays on the Homefront
This early William Krisel rendering of the House of Tomorrow looked 'out of this world'...as if an alien spacecraft was paying us a visit.

Running 41 minutes, the documentary is well researched and produced, and presents the story with sensitivity. It balances the home's history with excellent vintage footage, including interviews with the late William Krisel. The filmmaker touches on its years as an Elvis Presley tour house and its subsequent period of decline, and celebrates its return after an extensive rehabilitation.

The Alexanders left behind a lasting architectural legacy in Palm Springs. A family of real estate developers headed by Bob's father, George Alexander, their father‐and‐son team oversaw the Alexander Construction Company. With a motto of 'homes designed by architects for now and forever,' they partnered with Krisel, taking Palm Springs by storm while building several new modern subdivisions between 1957 and 1966.

 

Fridays on the Homefront
Bob and Helene Alexander lounge in their House of Tomorrow as part of Look magazine's spread from 1962. Photo: Cal Bernstein (courtesy Roz Bernstein)

By 1959, Bob and Helene commissioned Krisel to design something completely different, a special custom home for the Alexander family.

"Krisel considered it an unbuildable lot, complicated and expensive to build on," explains architectural historian Chris Menrad, who was interviewed in the film. "I've got to think that because of all the rocks [on site]."

Krisel's design is "basically all these circles joined under the roofline," adds Menrad. "You always see patterns in Krisel's work—lots of concrete blocks, butterfly roofs, gabled roofs—but nothing really like this."

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