Following a year’s absence, the Tahquitz River Estates Neighborhood Organization rejoins Modernism Week with a new look at a 1947 development spurred by Los Angeles developer Paul W. Trousdale.
Trousdales & Beyond: Midcentury Palm Springs South of Tahquitz River is a concise and structured presentation focusing on the earliest phase of the development.
“What we’re doing this time is a little segment of Tahquitz River Estates instead of the whole neighborhood, and just kind of segmented it down to the first section that Trousdale built,” says organizer Eric Borsum. “It’s a mixture of Trousdales and other houses. I thought that way we could tell a broader story about Pearl McCallum McManus and Trousdale and how they stabilized the wash, [setting] the stage for all the development south of the wash.”
McCallum McManus is said to be the person responsible for bringing modernism to the Palm Springs area as early as 1923, when she hired Lloyd Wright, the estranged son of Frank Lloyd Wright, to design an art deco tower for her Oasis Hotel.
She had grown up watching children swim and play along the Tahquitz River and always thought it would be an ideal place for homes. Trousdale began building homes designed by Allen G. Sipple and Stephen A. Stepanian in 1947; residences by Albert Frey, William Krisel, Hugh Kaptur soon followed.
“I think the neighborhood is great for Modernism Week because of the Trousdale houses, and because we have a mix of so many other architects here, too,” says Borsum.
While Borsum and his partner have owned their Tahquitz River Estates home for nine years, the couple became full-time residents in Palm Springs within the last year. “We’ve learned a lot about the neighborhood. It’s been great getting involved,” he says.
His enthusiasm and passion have injected fresh energy into the event. Improvements have been made to every aspect of the tour, including charitable donations. “We give away the majority of our money like a lot of the neighborhoods do,” says Borsum, “and to have even more to give away this year I suggested that we try to sell some sponsorships to some of the local businesses in our neighborhood. We went around and asked people if they would support the tour, and people were just great about it.”
Villa Royale Inn —once the estate of figure skater and film star Sonja Henie — is presenting sponsor of the tour, joining local businesses that include Coldwell Banker, El Mirasol Cocina Mexicana, Eight4Nine Restaurant, Musicland Hotel, and Santiago Resort.
When designing the tour, Borsum sought input from real estate agents who are experts in the Tahquitz Creek neighborhood, including Steve Lautenbach, James Bianco and Brett Kayzar at Coldwell Banker, Eric Meeks at RE/MAX Desert Properties, Niko Esposito at Paul Kaplan Group, Dana Dukelow at Wintrust Mortgage, Fred and Beverly Straeter at The Straeter Group, Jimmy Wilson at Deasy/Penner & Partners and Todd Cunningham at Woodbridge Pacific Group.
The tour opens with a brief talk from Peter Moruzzi, founder of the Palm Springs Modern Committee, after check-in at the First Church of Christ, Scientist, designed by Albert Frey and built in 1956. Moruzzi is an architectural historian and author of several books, including Palm Springs Holiday: A Vintage Tour from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea.
The self-guided tour is an approximately 90-minute walk around this well preserved and restored midcentury neighborhood. A few homeowners are allowing interior tours, including one E.L. Kramer design, and the home of Moruzzi and Lauren LeBaron.
The latter home, designed and built by local contractor Sam Pascal in 1956, features the original kitchen appliances and beautifully restored art and furniture throughout. Docents will be on hand in each featured home to share information and points of interest with attendees.
To further transport participants to times gone by, each featured home will be paired with a restored car of the era in the driveway. Great Autos of Yesteryear, a gay and lesbian classic-car club, helped source these rolling pieces of history. The owners of many cars will be on hand as “driveway docents” to answer questions.
Proceeds from the tour will go toward neighborhood improvements and to local charities and organizations to be determined.
Past grant recipients have included Boo2Bullying, Cahuilla Elementary School, Palm Springs Animal Shelter, LGBT Center of the Desert’s Food Bank, Tahquitz Creek Yacht Club, and Mizell Senior Center’s Meal on Wheels program.