Between Old Las Palmas and the mountain itself sit a distinctive collection of midcentury modern tract houses accessible to downtown and Uptown Palm Springs. The word “tract” references their origins, but, in the 21st century, these well-preserved homes have become a sought-after residential extravagance.
Following the success of the Twin Palms neighborhood, the Alexander Company expanded its modern-home concept to Vista Las Palmas in 1958. These sleek, modernist houses were a counterpoint to the traditional Spanish Revival houses in adjacent Old Las Palmas. Even so, they soon attracted their own piece of society’s real estate pie. The Alexanders built 330 homes here. the architecture firm Palmer and Krisel designed half, and Charles Du Bois designed the other half, in six different plans. Alternating orientations on the lots allowed the homes to resemble a custom neighborhood. The butterfly and folded plate roofs are pure Krisel, while Du Bois made an apres-ski statement with his Swiss Miss A-frames. Robert Alexander and his wife, Helene, lived in The House of Tomorrow custom-designed by Palmer and Krisel. Aficionados recognize its curved window pavilion under a “batwing” roof as the 1968 honeymoon hideaway of Elvis and Priscilla Presley. Other celebrities who found their way to Vista Las Palmas: Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Marilyn Monroe, and Trini Lopez. While the homes are similar in architecture and original design, their passionate homeowners carry off an endless range of personal expression. Post-and-beam construction allows for reconfiguration of the interior, while the exterior leaves a second window open for owners’ ideas. Respectful interpretation is a given, and many outcomes have been phenomenal.
Sixty years since the architects sketched their designs, Vista Las Palmas offers an immersive midcentury architecture experience among homes that speak same language. The fact that Du Bois deferred to the influential Krisel allowed for a varied but cohesive neighborhood, made all the more visually dramatic by the rare absence of visible power lines.
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