Donald Wexler Home Honored

Late architect's original residence in Palm Springs headed for double historic status
Fridays on the Homefront
The former residence of master architect Donald Wexler (above) may have missed being included in Art & Architecture magazine's famous Case Study House program, but the 1955 house (pictured above from 1958) is finally being honored 65 years later with a double dose of historic status that follows a renewal project. All vintage photos: courtesy Gary Wexler

Though late master architect Donald Wexler is best known for the seven landmark mid-century modern steel homes he built with the Alexander Construction Company in Palm Springs, his own unique, self-designed residence there also recently reached center stage, preserved and protected with double historic status.

"This house demonstrates how design works today, 50 years later," said the late architectural photographer Julius Shulman in 2006. "It's magnificent...it works beautifully."

Shulman also remarked at the time that he found it unfortunate that the Wexler residence—built in 1955 on East Verbena Drive in the Ruth Hardy Park neighborhood of Palm Springs—had not originally been included in Art & Architecture magazine's famous Case Study House program, which ran from 1945 until 1966.

After Wexler's wife, Marilynn, died in the late 1980s, Wexler continued living in the house until 1993, when he sold it to a landscape architect and moved to a condo in Deepwell Ranch. The house went through a couple of other owners, and some modifications were made. In 2015, Joseph Mantello purchased the home, joined later by partner Paul Marlow.

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Living room, circa 1958.

"The latest owners decided they wanted to have the house included in the local [historic] registry," explains Steven Keylon, Vice President of the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation.

Historian Peter Moruzzi completed a National Register bid in 2019, a multiple property nomination of Wexler designs that included the Wexler residence. Two years later, Keylon began authoring a local historic-designation nomination for the Wexler residence.

"Qualifying at a local level offers tighter protections that would preserve not only the spirit of the design but its original features," says Keylon. "And if a subsequent owner wanted to do something insensitive, then we could raise any issues for review."

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The Wexler residence under construction, 1954.

Local designation also allows homeowners to enlist the benefits of the Mills Act Program, a contract that offers property tax relief in exchange for restoration, rehabilitation, and maintenance of their historic properties.

Keylon began research of the property in spring 2021, submitting his draft to Ken Lyon, Preservation Officer for the City of Palm Springs. After setting up site visits for the Board, Lyon wrote up a recommendation from the City. The Historic Site Preservation Board unanimously approved the Class 1 Resource Nomination in October. Next it goes before the City Council.

  Fridays on the Homefront
Architect Donald Wexler, circa 1950s.