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Mid-Century Architecture with Pictures (A Self-Guided Tour)

The gorgeous scenery, impressive resorts, and beautiful weather of Palm Springs have made it popular among those who visit for decades. The impressiveness of this desert oasis has attracted many celebrities over the years. From Elvis Presley to Marilyn Monroe, celebrities have flocked to this popular getaway for decades. The appeal of Palm Springs has not only been a draw for celebrities, but prominent architects have left their mark on the city as well.

Today, beautiful Mid-Century Architecture throughout the city tells a tale of the visions of those architects who frequented Palm Springs in the middle of the 20th century. Palm Springs boasts one of the most sizable collections of such architecture that remain to this day. For connoisseurs of architecture, Palm Springs will be a paradise, as a simple drive around the town will reveal dozens of impressive structures that feature lovely Mid-Century Architectural designs. Considering the abundance of the so many structures that drew their inspiration from Mid-Century Architecture, it almost seems as though the town of Palm Springs itself is a museum.

One particular style that dominated the landscape in Palm Springs was the Desert Modernism style. Such a design was adapted for life in Palm Springs, as the buildings that were designed with this style in mind sought to minimize the distinction between indoor and outdoor life. Therefore, Desert Modernism structures frequently incorporate an abundance of windows, sliding glass doors, and open floor plans so those indoors could still appreciate the beautiful scenery around Palm Springs. The result of the Desert Modernism movement was a collection of houses that were aptly suited for life in the desert. These houses are made of materials that minimize the impacts of the external elements, therefore, these houses are not fazed by the constant heat and frequent wind that sweep through Palm Springs.

Fortunately for those who visit Palm Springs, plenty of Mid-Century Architecture and Desert Modernism style buildings persist today. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable:


  1. Elvis Presley Vacation Home – 825 W Chino Canyon

Elvis honeymooned here by Dale Cruse is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Elvis Presley and his wife Priscilla honeymooned at this sleek-looking Desert Modernism home. The frequent use of rock in the exterior and the wide array of shapes ranging from triangular to rectangular that can be found in this house contribute to a fantastic design. Complete with a stunning view overlooking the surrounding mountains and a flat roof that was a common feature of this style, you will surely be dazzled by this structure.

  1. Palm Springs Art Museum – 101 N Museum Drive

Marilyn Monroe Backside at Palm Springs Art Museum by Forsaken Fotos is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Composed primarily of concrete and cement, this expansive building featured a wide array of linear lines that are characteristic of the Desert Modernism style. Take a close look at the exterior walls of the art museum and you may observe the lava rock that adorns them. Part of a larger complex of exquisite art buildings, the Palm Springs Art Museum will certainly impress those who enjoy the arts.


  1. Del Marcos Hotel – 225 W Baristo Road

Palm Springs… by mbtrama is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The retro appearance of this hotel can still be seen when gazing at it today. Surrounded by towering palm trees and nestled at the foot of a hill, this structure epitomizes Palm Springs with its appearance and charm. Finished in 1947, fans of the Mid-Century Modern style can stay in this colorful hotel when visiting Palm Springs.

  1. Palm Springs City Hall – 3200 E Tahquitz Canyon Way

Palm Springs City Hall (2) by Ron Gilbert is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

The city of Palm Springs would not be complete if it did not also have a city hall structure that was emblematic of the Mid-Century Modern architecture style. Cylindrical shapes are a common feature that can be found in the design of Palm Spring’s city hall, with the most famous circle being the one on the roof of the main entrance. The different rooms of this building are not cookie-cutter and similar to one another, instead, each room has a unique shape and design to reflect the varying purposes of a city hall.

  1. Coachella Valley Savings and Loan Bank – 499 S Palm Canyon Drive

Coachella Valley Savings & Loan as a Chase Bank (2) by Ron Gilbert is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Though it may be a Chase Bank today, this building was historically the Coachella Valley Savings and Loan Bank. The exquisite columns of this structure are its most stunning feature, though a closer inspection will reveal water fountains in front of each column. The inspiration for this building stemmed from a Brazilian palace. Still a functional bank today, visitors can marvel at the stunning details of the exterior or take a peek inside to observe even more remarkable architecture.

  1. Theresa Catholic Church – 2800 E Ramon Road

This structure features a design with uncharacteristically low ceilings for a church, but the building is very much up to Mid-Century Modern standards. Sizable altars were imported after being designed in Italy, and the lovely stained glass windows illuminate the inside of the church quite well. Those who have visited St. Theresa Catholic Church in Palm Springs suggest that the inside is just as beautiful as the exterior.

  1. Sinatra House Twin Palms – 1148 Alejo Road

Frank Sinatra House – Palm Springs 01.jpg by User:Farragutful is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Frank Sinatra escaped to Palm Springs for frequent retreats from Los Angeles. He was not initially enthused by the idea of owning a Desert Modernism house, but the architects that he collaborated with persuaded him that this design would suit him better for life in the desert. The collection of linear shapes and towering fences make this property all the more alluring.

  1. Albert Frey’s Second House – 686 Palisades Drive

Frey House, Palm Springs CA by Joe Wolf | Flickr is licensed under Creative Commons — Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic — CC BY-ND 2.0

The simple rectangular design of this low house enables it to seemingly fade into the mountainside. This design truly connects with the outdoors, as rocks from the slope in which it sits were incorporated into the home design. A walk through the property will reveal rocks that are dividing different areas of the living space.

  1. Edris House – 1030 W Cielo Drive

1954 … Edris House, Palm Springs | architect – E. Stewart … | Flickr by James Vaughan | Flickr is licensed under Creative Commons — Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic — CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Another example of how Desert Modernism designs structures with the outdoors in mind, this house is situated atop a rocky slope. The chimney was created with rocks from the surrounding terrain, while the outdoor pool is nestled among a collection of boulders. The large glass wall in the living room provides spectacular views for those inside this house.

  1. Tramway Shell Gas Station – 2796 North Palm Canyon Drive

Mid-Century Modern Shell Station, Palm Springs CA” by Joe Wolf | Flickr is licensed under Creative Commons — Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic — CC BY-ND 2.0

Enjoy a glimpse into the past when you fuel up at this functional shell gas station. The roof is a thin slab of flat concrete while the remainder of the structure is comprised of simple, symmetrical lines and cubes. A quick stop for fuel will readily help any customer to appreciate the subtle intricacies of this gas station.


There are dozens of other breathtaking examples of Mid-Century Modern structures in Palm Springs. Desert Modernism is both popular and practical in this town, as the simple designs of such buildings help people to connect with nature by providing them with easy access to interact with the natural world. Whether these buildings include enormous windows, sliding glass doors, or boulders in the yard (or even in the house).

Desert Modernism-style buildings are on full display in Palm Springs. Those who appreciate the beauty and simplicity of Mid-Century Modern buildings will have to make it a priority to visit Palm Springs, as the town features some of the finest examples of such houses in the world. Those who get the chance to visit this desert oasis may find that a simple drive around the town to take in the marvelous architectural wonders is very worthwhile.

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