If you stumbled into town these days without having read or heard about the resurgence of Modernism as an architectural and interior trend, you might think Palm Springs had fashioned itself as a sort-of theme park. Along the line of say … Leavenworth, Washington or other Bavarian-themed towns, only with a twist.
Of course the village area remains mostly Spanish-Mediterranean in flavor, but nearly every residential neighborhood has dozens, even hundreds, of spectacular examples of the clean and stark modernism that was so favored from about 1950 to 1970.
But it wasn’t theme park economics that created this situation. On the contrary, it was economic decline. These aren’t faux Vegas-style structures (although that is happening more now, well after the fact) but rather original buildings remaining from the memorable rat-pack era in our history, simply because the town slumped into a tremendous depression for nearly 30 years, as development and progress moved further down valley.
As the cities of Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage and La Quinta blossomed, Palm Springs wilted, like an aging desert beauty who’d had her day and perhaps spent too much of it in the sun. Indeed, by the turn-around, in about 1998, gorgeous mid-century homes, not necessarily even in disrepair, were going for as low as $40-50,000.
That’s laughable now of course. With the real estate boom of the early 2000s