Welcome back to the desert – and to happy, cooler fall days to those who stayed here all summer. With the ongoing Covid pandemic and the associated risks of meeting in large groups in-person, we are continuing to take precautions and avoiding in-person events at least until the end of this year. Please stay tuned to our activities via our Preservation Sessions, and stay in touch with us via email at any time: email@example.com.
PLEASE DONATE! With the lack of in-person events we have been unable to hold the normal fundraising activities, including Modernism Week in-person events cancelled earlier this year, that are usually our main source of income. We very much appreciate the support that some of you have given us with donations during the last 18 months, but we are counting on you more than ever to help us keep our programs going. Please donate now.
We’re back! Our Fall line-up kicks off with ‘Sunday Brunch with Catherine Cody’ on Sunday, October 17th at 12 noon. Catherine Cody, whose long-awaited book on the work of her father William F. Cody was just published, will be in conversation with Preservation Mirage’s Melissa Riche.
Entitled ‘Master of the Mid-Century,’ Catherine Cody co-authored this stunning book with Jo Lauria and Don Choi. As many of you know, Cody’s work in Rancho Mirage was prolific and acclaimed. We’re fortunate that many examples of his work are still standing, although several have been lost to remodeling and demolition since the 1980s. This session will be a fascinating insight into some of the homes we’ve lost as well as some of Catherine Cody’s favorites from her father’s exceptional legacy, with photos and illustrations as well as conversation.
Book your spot online for the live session so you can ask Cathy questions at the end of the presentation. Sign up here: https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/tvaFHXA/ConversationwithCathyCody
November and December Sessions
Save the dates (invites will be sent 3 weeks before)
Tuesday, November 16th at 5pm PST: Steven Price will present "Johnny Dawson: Pioneer of Fairway Living" – a session on the far-reaching influence of the golfer and real estate developer. Known in Rancho Mirage for Thunderbird Country Club, Dawson didn’t stop there…. Steven Price is a well-known historian, author of ‘Trousdale Estates,’ and a history of Marrakesh Country Club – produced for the club. He is currently working on a book about the work of John Elgin Woolf. Price is an eloquent speaker and expert on all things midcentury, now based in the desert.
Tuesday, December 7th at 5pm PST: Courtney Newman is a local preservation legend: founder of PS Modcom, owner of the ‘Modernway’ vintage furnishings store, and Rancho Mirage resident. He has a deep and abiding love for the showbiz side of our valley and will bring that to life in his presentation ‘Showbiz Comes to the Desert.’ This is guaranteed to get you into a light-hearted party mode for the holidays.
As you know – much of Modernism Week in 2021 had to take place virtually because of the pandemic. We are keeping fingers well and truly crossed that we can go ahead with the tours that we had planned in February 2022.
We know we’ve been telling you about this for a long time. It’s taken longer than we’d hoped but we think you’ll find that it’s worth the wait. The map is ready! It will be direct mailed via USPS to all residents of Rancho Mirage in mid-November, just in time for you to give your Thanksgiving visitors a guided tour. For friends and supporters outside of Rancho Mirage, the map will be available online for a $5 donation.
February 17th - 27th, 2022
Fingers are well and truly crossed that in-person events will be back on track by February 2022. Preservation Mirage is working on two tours that will give residents and visitors a fresh and educational look at areas of the city where history and architecture intermingle. First up is a self-driving tour of Magnesia Falls Cove – originally scheduled for 2021. We’re delighted that homeowners in this historic neighborhood have offered to open their homes for a day. ‘Where Rancho Mirage Began,’ is the name of the tour.
The second tour – in the planning stages – is a walking tour of the Tamarisk Neighborhood. Walking tours have become an exciting way to learn about architectural history during the pandemic. This will be a two-hour tour of some of the valley’s best architectural sites (exteriors only) led by members of the Preservation Mirage board.
Looking for a part-time job?
Preservation Mirage is looking for administrative help. If you have a background in administration at any level and some time to spare – a few hours a week – then we would be delighted to talk to you. Computer ability and skills with the usual software programs (Microsoft Office: Word, Excel, etc.) are a must. In addition, we’re looking for a board consultant to help us with our structure as our nonprofit grows, both in membership and in goals. If you or anyone you know would be interested in learning more, please get in touch. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you don’t know much about 1970s architecture, it’s time to take a look, because it’s trending. Presidential Estates is tucked away off Gerald Ford Drive near Da Vall Dr. Fifty-two homes are dotted around the small subdivision with just one road curving around the homes: Lincoln Place. The houses are all single family, free-standing, most with pools. The key features of 70s architecture are represented: the expanded interior volumes – up to 17 ft high ceilings, and the sculptural massing of the exteriors. Street elevations are essentially long-gabled rooflines on steroids. The first phase was completed in 1977. Six home designs were each named for a different president. The designer was Steven Sherer.
No, we didn’t know who he was either, but what a pedigree he turned out to have. Trained at Art Center in Pasadena, his first job out of college in 1962 was at the Ford Motor Co. Design Center in Detroit, where he worked in the Advanced Styling Studio for John Najjar, the designer of the Ford Mustang. He also worked for Ford in Germany, then at the International studio in Detroit, designing the forerunner to the Ford Capri. In an interview in the Desert Sun in 1978, Sherer stated, “I worked on the exteriors and interiors of every type of vehicle Ford produced.” He also designed Philco consumer products, from radios to refrigerators, then worked on the masterplan of the Fairlane community. In fact, it turns out the title of the road that runs through Presidential Estates is kind of ironic: he designed the 1970 Lincoln Mark V. (See below). He was considered one of the design stars at Ford and stayed there for many years, eventually turning his hand to multi-media production for car launches and concept planning of the Renaissance Center development in downtown Detroit. He moved to Rancho Mirage in the mid-1970s and set up his own design studio.
One of the design styles today
Rear view of another design: a forerunner of the split pediment that became a post-modern signature
Sherer’s design for the Lincoln Mark V, 1969
The Zeppo Marx Residence
Tamarisk Country Club
Continuing our series on important homes that have been lost to aggressive remodels or demolition.
In March 1959, only months before Zeppo married Barbara Blakeley (later Barbara Sinatra), the Palm Springs Villager magazine ran an article about Zeppo’s home at Tamarisk Country Club. The house was described thus: “…perfectly civilized, highly intelligent and architecturally sedate plan for desert living. Not a gag or a gimmick anywhere – just comfort, function, and a very pleasing décor.” The article goes on to explain, “Zeppo himself designed the home, with the help of architect Wallace Neff. The theme is absolute symmetry.” This is slightly curious, given Wallace Neff’s fame as an architect to the stars and his relationship with the Marx Brothers, for whom he designed several homes, both in the desert (for Harpo) and in Los Angeles (for Groucho) and latterly, a second Tamarisk home for Gummo. It sounds a little dismissive of Neff’s input. However, Zeppo was a designer in his own right, securing patents for innovative products, like a wristwatch that monitored the pulse rate. By the late 1950s his involvement in entertainment was solely as a theatrical agent with his brother Gummo.
The house received its building permit early in 1956; the Desert Sun reported that Zeppo was ‘in his house when he wasn’t playing golf’ by September of that year. The same article reported that Ed Richards was having his house extended (by Wallace Neff) and that Harpo and Susan Marx had just purchased their five-acre site across the road from Tamarisk, with plans for their 6800 sq ft house (also by Wallace Neff). It’s understandable, therefore, that Neff was spending quite a bit of time in the desert, so that Zeppo would have sought out the famed architect for his help. Whatever the nature of the design partnership with Neff and Marx, Zeppo’s house was a sleek modernist pavilion, shown in the Villager’s photo. The ‘hexametrical’ living room was described as ‘perfectly balanced.’ Marx designed a two-sided central fireplace; red-cushioned sofas arced around low tables. The master bathroom featured a sunken round marble tub. Zeppo put the 4-bedroom, 4-bathroom house on the market in 1973 following his divorce. The house appears to have been demolished, as the property on the site today bears no relation to the Marx-Neff pavilion of the 1950s.
Don’t hesitate to contact us at any time if you think Preservation Mirage can help. We’re here to inform, educate, and preserve. If you see an abandoned house that looks interesting, let us know. If you need help or advice with historical research, email us. If you have suggestions or time on your hands and would like to help – we’re all ears! AND DON’T FORGET TO DONATE!
Preservation Mirage is a registered nonprofit 501 (c (3) entity. Membership is free, but donations are always welcome. Donate, volunteer, engage with us online at www.preservationmirage.org on Instagram @preservationmirage and via Facebook.