Friday, 15 July 2016 00:44

Enjoy a Tour of Midcentury Architecture in Palm Springs

Written by Jeff Shotwell
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Albert Frey's Tramway Gas Station - now Palm Springs Visitor's Center Albert Frey's Tramway Gas Station - now Palm Springs Visitor's Center

The progressive design of midcentury modern architecture emphasizes linear simplicity that so many people find desirable today. Built between 1945 and 1975, these structures take many different forms, from homes to gas stations.

Midcentury architecture is particularly popular among baby boomers, whose childhood memories revolve around events involving these vintage structures. Its transparent, honest simplicity of design is also highly appreciated in a sort of backlash way against the complex technology-driven, fast-paced contemporary world we live in.

You can find plenty of midcentury architecture in Palm Springs - here are a few places to explore as they take you back to another time.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, also called The Palm Springs Tram, is the epitome of midcentury design. Completed in 1963, it not only gives you an ideal view of midcentury modern architecture, it also affords the best aerial views of the Greater Palm Springs area. The ride from the Valley Station takes you to the Mountain Station, both of which were designed by important midcentury architects.

The Wexler Steel Houses, built in 1961, were the vision of architect Donald Wexler, who combined "the upscale modernist ideal with prefabricated construction techniques". Six of the homes have been restored as private residences and have achieved Class 1 Historical Site status. You can find them on Simms Road, Sunny View Drive, and Molino Road.

Elvis' Honeymoon Hideaway, with its polygonal floating glass bedroom, was called "The House of Tomorrow" by Look Magazine back in the 1960s. Elvis had taken a one-year lease on the house and is said to have carried his new wife, Priscilla, over the threshold immediately after their Las Vegas wedding.

Albert Frey's Tramway Gas Station is a space-age style icon in Palm Springs. Built in the early 1960s, it's now been transformed into the Palm Springs Visitors Center, but it retains every bit of its midcentury modern charm with its wedge-shaped metal roof set against the mountains and open sky. It's considered "a prime example of modernism in architecture."

Other glowing examples of Palm Springs midcentury architecture include the Post Office (built in 1970) on W. Amado Road, the Bank of America (built in 1959) on S. Canyon Drive, and the must-see Palm Springs City Hall (built 1952-1957) on E. Tahquitz Canyon Way. All are well worth the visit!


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