Palm Springs Preservationists Keep Up Fight for Modernism


Efforts to preserve Palm Springs’ modernist legacy are progressing. In the fall Royal Hawaiian Estates, a tiki-themed apartment complex designed by Wexler and Harrison, became the first residential neighborhood in town to be designated a historic district. The Palm Springs Preservation Foundation donated funds to restore some tiki detailing.

“We’re always fighting about something being torn down,” Ron Marshall, the foundation’s president, says. “It’s good to have something put back.”

And in March, the 1947 home designed for Frank Sinatra by E. Stewart Williams was named a historic site by the city.

Perhaps the biggest battle on the modernist front, however, remains hard fought—the Town & Country Center, a once-lovely and now largely derelict shopping center designed by Paul R. Williams and A. Quincy Jones in 1948. Plans to demolish the center remain alive despite a city survey identifying it as “a rare and excellent example of the late Moderne style.”

The preservation foundation has hired a firm to provide a ‘sustainability study’ that could provide alternatives for re-use rather than demolition. Also, the National Organization of Minority Architects has weighed in, focusing on the legacy of Paul Williams, a pioneering black architect of national importance.

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