Thursday, 30 June 2016 21:52

Glamour and Elegance: Palm Springs in the 1950s and '60s

Written by Jeff Shotwell
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Downtown Palm Springs 1960's Downtown Palm Springs 1960's

With its healing hot springs and gorgeous vistas, Palm Springs has long been a playground for the rich and elite. In the 1930s, stars such as Marlene Dietrich and Frank Sinatra considered Palm Springs a welcome getaway from the intensity of Hollywood life. Once WWII ended, visitors to Palm Springs increased dramatically. Throughout the 1940s Palm Springs saw the construction of new town buildings and a great deal of new housing.

This construction continued through the 1950s. In 1952, the infamous El Mirador Hotel reopened its doors to the public, astounding the media with its lavishness and glamour. The new owners of the El Mirador contracted with architect Paul R. Williams to design its famous cabanas and a new pool area in a modern 1950s style.

The hotel's patrons included several former US presidents and their entire press crews. Stars poured in from the Hollywood scene. Marilyn Monroe and Elvis both frequently vacationed in Palm Springs. After many unsuccessful attempts, in 1957 Sam Banowit facilitated an agreement with the Tribal Council to lease the hot springs. In exchange for use of the land, Banowit agreed to transplant all the palm trees that the tribe considered sacred and give the tribe all the income from the hot springs.

Due to the huge increase in tourism and growth in Palm Springs in the 1950s and '60s, this compromise was essential for the expansion of the community. More houses were created as population grew. Celebrities began to purchase land and build homes in the area. Many of these celebrities, such as Frank Sinatra, chose a certain modern style made popular by architect E. Stewart Williams. This style appears warm and natural, yet modern. It is found in many municipal buildings throughout Palm Springs.

Palm Springs remains a luxurious hot spot for celebrities today, but it's not just for celebrities anymore. Palm Springs offers its own star walk downtown and it's a great place to admire the mid-century architecture so frequently found around the city.


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