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Little Tuscany

Arguably the most architecturally saturated enclave in the desert began with an early homesteader’s European vacation. Builder Alvah Hicks returned starry-eyed from Tuscany, Italy, in 1934 and realized this craggy area reminded him of landscapes he had admired. “Little Tuscany” was laid out in his mind’s eye as a full Tuscan village among the boulders. Hicks built seven Italian-inspired homes, including the only local home owned by Elvis Presley. After the war, modernism was the new vernacular, infusing Little Tuscany with residences now recognized internationally. This hillside and rugged terrain have forced architects to solve complicated problems with artistic and technical finesse. Challenging lots have yielded innovation.

What’s more, the sweeping valley and city-lights views from the hills stretch past the twirling wind turbines to the north and all way to the Salton Sea to the south. The hillside rolls into downtown Palm Springs, and along its path lie architecturally significant homes by Richard Neutra (Kaufmann House, 1946), Albert Frey (Raymond Lowey House, 1947), Walter White (Franz Alexander House, 1955), E. Stewart Williams (Edris House, 1953), Donald Wexler (Florsheim/Leff House, 1957), Edward Fickett (May House, 1951), Michael Black (Edna Root Shaprio House, 1969), the only Craig Elwood-designed home in desert (Max Palevsky House, 1968), and at least three by set designer James McNaughton, including one for George Hearst, eldest son of William Randolph Hearst. Built in 1956, the swanky Frederick Loewe Estate is 5,000 square feet of glass and views set on three Little Tuscany acres. One of the area’s most important new homes also turns heads here. Designed by Sean Lockyer of Studio AR&D Architects for the Schnable family (2015), the home conveys key tenets of desert modernism while elevating new thoughts in the field.


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