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John Porter Clark (1905–1991)

John_Porter_Clark Born: Fort Dodge, Iowa
Education: Cornell University, 1928
Best known for: Partnering with celebrity-status architects like Albert Frey as well as his experience with established architects of Pasadena, where Clark moved with his parents as a teenager. After Clark headed to Palm Springs to open a satellite office for Pasadena firm Van Pelt and Lind, he met with Albert Frey in 1935. The rest is architectural history.

John Porter Clark and his 60-year career left a wide swath of important projects, from the coveted ranch-style houses of Smoke Tree Ranch to the low, flat-plane rooflines of Palm Springs City Hall and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Valley Station that make a powerful statement without disrupting the views.

He worked independently and in collaboration with talented partners of the day in several configurations of prominent architectural firms. His first and long-time partner, Albert Frey, became a lifelong friend. Robson Chambers and E. Stewart Williams were among other partners. The creative yin and yang of working at times as sole proprietor and at other times in tandem with fellow brilliant minds made Clark’s body of work a rich and full-bodied one.

Clark’s residential, commercial, and institutional structures — most in a modern vein — included libraries, hospitals, churches, and civic buildings. Private estates that still attract attention include William Holden’s (a stunning masterpiece of pivoting glass walls under a flat, cantilevering roof) and Clark’s own, set atop steel stilts where it could shine as an early example of International Style meets desert modernism, built in 1939.

When Clark retired in 1990, he hadn’t cataloged his drawings or even listed his projects. Only his partnerships with esteemed colleagues help us piece together his certain legacy.

Other Notable Properties:

  • San Jacinto Hotel (Movie Colony Hotel), 1935
  • Wright Ludington House in Rancho Mirage, 1937
  • Palm Springs Woman’s Club, 1939
  • Welwood Memorial Library, 1940
  • Hamrick House, 1941
  • St. Paul’s in the Desert, 1946
  • Desert Hospital, 1951
  • William Holden Residence, 1956
  • Palm Springs City Hall, 1957
  • Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Valley Station, 1963