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Hugh Kaptur (1931)

Hugh_Kaptur Born: Detroit, Michigan
Education: Lawrence Institute of Technology
Best known for: Two Southridge houses, one purchased by actor Steve McQueen, the other designed for William Holden. The former had been designed for another client; McQueen fell for its floor-to-ceiling glass, floating staircase, wide balconies, and gated hilltop locale. Holden hopped from his Deepwell pad to a low-slung but voluminous five-bedroom estate he commissioned Hugh Kaptur to design.

A formidable scatter of more than 200 residential and 40-plus commercial projects across the Coachella Valley sums up Kaptur’s desert architecture career. Though a contemporary of William Cody, Don Wexler, William Krisel, and E. Stewart Williams, Kaptur has named Frank Lloyd Wright as a major influence.

He sampled from the midcentury modern era’s work and built upon it with his own softer, warmer take on “desert style.” Thick walls, deeply inset windows, and wide overhangs to block the sun and its heat were residential trademarks for Kaptur’s work that borrow from Southwest and Spanish aesthetics.

After serving in the Marines, Kaptur returned to native Detroit to work in General Motors’ styling division. A trip to California put a sharp angle in the course of his life and career: He never returned to the Midwest. Rather, he settled in Palm Springs in 1956, apprenticed in the offices of Wexler and Harrison, made artist’s renderings for Donald Wexler and Albert Frey, and secured connections that set him on 60-year course of both partnered (Robert Ricciardi, Larry Lapham, James Cioffi) and independent work. Kaptur designed many private homes along with hotels, office buildings, apartment complexes, fire stations, and the Palm Springs Golf Course Clubhouse (now Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort) on Golf Club Drive.

Kaptur is the last of the midcentury architects living in Palm Springs. Having received a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars in 2014, he was honored during Modernism Week and was the subject of the film Quiet Elegance the same year. Two years later, he saw the completion of three Little Tuscany homes he designed called “Kaptur Court.”

Other Notable Properties:

  • Impala Lodge (The Triangle Inn), 1958
  • Siva House, 1959
  • Steve McQueen Residence in Southridge, 1964
  • Palm Springs Fire Station #3
  • Palm Springs Fire Station #4
  • Casa Blanca Hotel/Musicland Hotel
  • Palm Springs Golf Course Clubhouse (Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort), 1967
  • William Holden Residence in Southridge, 1977
  • Tahquitz Plaza, 1977