We hope you’ve enjoyed the winter season in the desert. With the easing of Covid restrictions, Preservation Mirage was able to hold its two tours to great success during Modernism Week and both were sold out! In spite of Covid, or perhaps because of it, during the past two years our membership has soared to 500. Our online Preservation Sessions and the Architecture Map with resultant media coverage - have raised the profile of Preservation Mirage.
The pandemic also prompted people to move to the desert full-time, many of whom are interested in architecture and preservation in Rancho Mirage. To help guide our organization into the future, we have been making some positive changes to our board operations during the winter season which will result in a stronger organization; more news below. Plans are afoot for new activities and the reintroduction of in-person events starting in the Fall. Enjoy your summer, wherever you may be. We’ll look forward to seeing you in Rancho Mirage soon.
Modernism Week Wrap-up
Firstly, a massive and heartfelt thank-you to the many members who kindly volunteered their time and help during the Magnesia Falls Cove tour, ‘Where Rancho Mirage Began,’ and the Tamarisk Walking Tour. We literally couldn’t do it without you! It takes a village to make these events successful, and lots of planning takes place beforehand. The assistance we receive during the planning and on tour-days ensures that everything runs smoothly. If you participated in either or both events, as guests or as volunteers, we trust you enjoyed the experience.
Board members of Preservation Mirage led the Tamarisk neighborhood walking tour; they took more than 100 people on seven tours of the rich architecture of the area that includes homes by Krisel, Kaptur, Cody, and Wexler. Some of these homes will appear on our social media pages during the coming months. Please be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
Nearly 400 people attended the Magnesia Falls Cove tour, held in partnership between Preservation Mirage and the Rancho Mirage Community Association under the guidance of Anne Winchester and Thomas Troy. Seven homes were opened to visitors, dating from 1950 to the present day; each had its own unique style, some featured original details, or were sensitive remodels of midcentury homes, or contemporary interpretations of modernist architecture.
A unique pleasure of these tours is when people show up with surprises: drawings, photos, and memories. This time, the daughter of an early owner of a Sahara Road house on the tour came by the check-in desk to show us drawings her mother had done for the home’s striking front door design. In the early 1960s, then homeowner Lois Hammer was a well-known local artist and art teacher. The front door, with its decorative carved depictions of fantastic beasts, was carved to her design in Mexico. This was an exciting discovery and solved a long-standing mystery for us and the current homeowner. The door was also featured in a 1990s issue of Architectural Digest.
Besides the Preservation Mirage tours, other neighborhoods and communities in the city opened their doors during Modernism Week, including Chalet Palms and Tamarisk West. If you attended either of these tours, you had a treat. Chalet Palms, with its easily recognized pitched roof lanais, has been improving the community, thanks to monies raised during previous Modernism Week tours. Although the condo homes from 1965 are a mere 900 square feet, their clever design by famed architect Barry Berkus makes the two-bedroom homes seem much bigger. Original landscaping for the community steps up from the curved entry steps on to three terraces; magnificent, mature olive and palm trees, desert planting and the central pool area charm visitors. Homeowners’ tastes are wide-ranging, from mod Moroccan to sleek contemporary, making for a fascinating tour.
Over at Tamarisk West, the homes are much bigger: more than 2,000 square feet. A star attraction on this year’s tour of Tamarisk West One was the remarkable ‘Kay Residence’ featured in House & Garden in 1969. With original interiors by Arthur Elrod, it was not surprising that Adele Cygelman, author of ‘Arthur Elrod: Desert Modern Design,’ was keen to take a look. Accompanying her for a private viewing at the end of tour-day was Melissa Riche of Preservation Mirage. Neither had seen the condo, so were delighted to receive the invite from homeowner Angela Avery. There was a memorable moment when Adele and Melissa were admiring the floating red credenza on the dining room wall. Climbing underneath it to see if Elrod’s name was on the underside, Melissa discovered the original lighting units installed to illuminate the credenza as Elrod intended. Taking a bit of a risk, she flipped a switch - and voila! The credenza glowed in the early evening light. The owners didn’t realize the credenza could be lit up, so it was a real ‘lightbulb moment’. Everyone in the room gasped and grabbed their phones to take photos.
The rest of the visit was equally thrilling as Adele and Melissa realized that virtually everything in the condo was as-designed by Elrod, as the images below convey. We hope that in due course we will be able to invite Preservation Mirage members to see for themselves – with Angela’s permission of course!
Changes to the Preservation Mirage Board
Now that our registered non-profit is four years old, and has grown considerably in membership, activities, and goals, we decided in January to undertake a day-long workshop with an expert consultant in non-profit board structure. The day gave us valuable insights into ensuring the future of Preservation Mirage, as well as spreading the workload of existing board members. With the inevitable changes, Linda Dwan and Carol LeFlufy stepped down, due to personal and work commitments. We thank them most sincerely for the time, energy, input, and valuable opinions. Since then, we have welcomed two new board members and would like to introduce them to you.
Dan Allen joined the board in early March. He started his career as an estate-planning attorney before moving into wealth management. He currently is an executive at a large financial institution. His passion for midcentury design began when he first stepped foot in the desert twelve years ago. He lives in the Thunderbird North community where he owns the earliest home, built in 1956 for golfing legend, Eddie Lowery.
Margaret Spaniolo spent over 30 years in New York City as a Fashion Executive for luxury retailers before moving to California and opening her current consulting company. Her passion for renovating and preserving homes began 25 years ago and includes building and / or restoring nine homes. Moving to the desert only a year ago, she discovered an architecturally significant midcentury home that changed her world, and she soon became an advocate for preservation of Rancho Mirage’s legacy homes. She lives in the Thunderbird North community.
Nathan Jacroux, who joined the board in December and whose top-level marketing expertise is already making a difference to Preservation Mirage, will be working with Dan and Margaret to create exciting new plans for this Fall and beyond, that will span membership, events, fundraising, and education. You’ll be hearing more about the future of Preservation Mirage in our next newsletter.
Support for other Preservation Organizations
One of the reasons we raise money via events, Modernism Week tours, and of course your donations, is because we are starting a program of donations to other organizations whose work and missions closely align with that of Preservation Mirage, and / or supplies valuable educational resources that can be used by everyone. The Preservation Mirage board recently voted to support two organizations and we’re delighted to help them now and into the future.
The first is www.USModernist.org. If you’re not familiar with this organization, be warned – the website comes with the advice ‘Warning, highly addictive,’ and we couldn’t agree more. It is the ‘largest digital archive of midcentury Modernist houses in the world' and has won several awards for its work including a 2022 AIA Honorary award. One of our favorites on the in-depth website is the staggering range of vintage magazines, scanned and uploaded for your enjoyment. These include well-known reference magazines like Architectural Record – going back to 1891 – and Arts & Architecture – the seminal California based magazine whose editor, John Entenza, started the Case Study Houses program. USModernist also features regular newsletters, entertaining podcasts and listings of Modernist homes and architects around the country.
The second is the Palm Springs Architectural Alliance.
More recently established, the PSAA is working on a book – essentially an academic publication for the ‘Palm Springs School’ to be edited by well-known architecture author, Alan Hess. The book is being produced by the PSAA and Preservation Mirage has made an initial contribution. The video by Alan Hess on the website is an excellent way to find out more about this project that will finally give the architecture of Palm Springs (and that includes Rancho Mirage golf course houses and communities of course) the profile it deserves for ‘Desert Modernism’ and its importance and influence worldwide.
If You See Something, Say Something!
Preservation is a community activity. If you see a city permit sign go up in front of a property that looks historic (1930s – 1970s), email us, and we’ll check it out.
Tell your friends about Preservation Mirage. Become a ‘Neighborhood Leader’ and help to grow the interest and enthusiasm for preserving our historic community.