The Movie Colony is a neighborhood in Palm Springs, California, named after the many famous movie stars who owned homes beween the 1930's & 1960's. Some famous movie stars who had a home in TMC are Cary Grant, Dinah Shore, Jack Benny, Marilyn Monroe and Al Jolson.
TMC is located in central Palm Springs, within walking distance to the downtown, and is comprised of approximately 170 homes. The recognized boundaries by the City of Palm Springs and the Palm Springs Board of Realtors are: Tachevah Road on the North, Alejo Road on the South, Avenida Caballeros on the East and Indian Canyon on the West.
Within TMC are two parks. Ruth Hardy Park is located between Via Miraleste, Avenida Caballeros, Tamarisk Road and Tachevah Road. The Park has 8 tennis courts, 2 children's play areas, a basketball court, 2 volleyball courts, picnic tables with barbeque's, large open fields and ample parking.
TMC's proximity to the Palm Springs International Airport is approximately 3 miles and is the Highway 111 Exit on Interstate 10. (look for the windmills).
TMC has several hotels under renovation, The Spanish Inn (originally owned by Alan Ladd), the Colony Palms and the Indian Manor. The Movie Colony Hotel is located on Indian Canyon Drive at the corner of Via Altamira. It has 16 modernist rooms, Hollywood glamour with poolside relaxation. (www.moviecolonyhotel.com).
TMC is within walking distance of Downtown Palm Springs where there are many fine restaurants, shops and live entertainment
The Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce can be located at www.pschamber.org.
The local newspaper for Palm Springs is The Desert Sun (www.thedesertsun.com).
The first record of white men in the Palm Springs area was the 1823-24 expedition of Brevet Captain Jose Romero. Captain Romero led an expedition through the San Gorgonio Pass in search of a route to the Colorado River. His party stopped to rest at some natural hot springs, which they named Agua Caliente.
29 years later in 1853, Lt. R. S. Williamson and a geologist, W.P. Blake, with the Smithsonian Institution, were sent by the Federal government to survey land across the West for a possible railroad route from the Mississippi to the Pacific. In his detailed topographical report, Blake described the oasis of palm trees that shaded mineral springs flowing into a pond, which he called Palm Springs.
Between 1857 and 1877 several stagecoach lines traversed the San Gorgonio pass and most stopped at the Agua Caliente springs for water. The most influential was the Bradshaw Stage Line, which ran from 1863-1877. The Bradshaw line not only stopped at Agua Caliente but also had an adobe station built there. Jack Summers was the agent between 1865 and 1877, making him and his wife the first white settlers of Agua Caliente, soon to be Palm Springs.
The railroad finally made it through the pass in 1876. However, Agua Caliente was still very remote and few people knew of its existence. To establish Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way, the company was granted alternating sections of land for ten miles on either side of the tracks. The railroad received odd-numbered sections while the even-numbered ones remained government property. On May 15th 1876, 880 acres of what is now Downtown Palm Springs, including Tahquitz Canyon, was set aside as the Agua Caliente Indian reservation. The next year, 48 sections – a little over 30 thousand acres of the government land – were given to the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians.
John G. McCallum became the first permanent settler when he traveled to Palm Valley in 1884 and immediately knew this is where he wanted to relocate his family, including an ailing son.
Judge John Guthrie McCallum
The first white settler of “Palm Springs”
The place was known by the name of "Palm Valley" until 1890 when Harry McCallum referred in a letter to his post office address in "Palm Springs." In 1887, 320 acres of the 6,000 purchased by John Guthrie McCallum, where surveyed into a township that today comprises downtown Palm Springs.
B. B. Barney purchased 600 acres from McCallum and built the first subdivision, called The Garden of Eden, at the present-day site of the Canyon Country Club. Streets where named for Adam, Eve and other early biblical characters. By 1888 Land sales where booming.
Edmond Fulford, a successful Los Angeles businessman had a vision of building a unique community in a secluded Palm Springs location. He established the Palm Canyon Mesa on the lowest slopes of the San Jacinto Mountains in a caldera that provides neighborhood homes protection from the desert winds. Fulford’s dream was of an exclusive gated community that was entered through a common main entrance. The plan never came to fruition as Mr. Fulford died suddenly in 1936. One remnant, the gatehouse, still remains between South Palm Canyon and Mesa Drive on El Portal and is now considered an iconic representation of the Mesa Neighborhood. With the plan established, other developers, including architect Alfred Heineman, moved in to continued development in this beautiful area.
The Mesa also resides on the east flank of Tahquiz Canyon. A ruggedly beautiful canyon that leaves a stark impression from the huge gash the crag produces. Tahquitz is steeped in Indian folklore. According to this legend, Tahquitz was a man of great power. Created by Mukat, the legendary creator of the Cahuilla Indians. It is said that he craved human flesh and beautiful women. When people disappeared on the mountain they where reputed to have been carried off by Tahquitz and eaten. He speaks through lightning and thunder.
Today the Mesa is a unique and eclectic collection of architectural styles producing a beautiful neighborhood nestled in an awe-inspiring setting. The diversity does not stop there. The individuals who occupy the homes are as unique as the architecture, with occupations and interest spanning every conceivable endeavor. There is one other unique attribute to the Mesa. We are truly a neighborhood of friendly residents walking the streets every day and stopping often to enjoy each other’s company. We are glad you are visiting our virtual neighborhood and look forward to meeting you some day in our real neighborhood, close to the Garden of Eden on the East slops of the San Jacinto Mountains.
By Michael Slattery
With nearly 550 single family residences, RCENO is quite possibly the largest of Palm Springs' neighborhood organizations. Our organization area is roughly contained within the streets of San Rafael, Ave. Caballeros, Vista Chino, and Indian Canyon Drive. The vast majority of residences in our unique neighborhood are attributed to very iconic and respected area developers and architects.
Designed by the respected architect William Krisel A.I.A., the Racquet Club Road Estates development was the largest single-family tract home venture built by the famed Alexander Construction Company, and comprises the greatest area of RCENO The beauty of these post and beam homes designed in the mid-century modern vernacular is found in the soaring waferthin rooflines, clerestory windows, an open floor plan, and a unique indoor-outdoor relationship. Enormous lot sizes contribute greatly toward the livability and enjoyment of these homes.
The Meiselman homes, located towards RCENO's southern boundary, is another sizeable block of historic mid-century modern residences built using the post and beam technique, clerestory windows, tongue and groove ceilings, scored stucco treatments, and walls of glass that contribute to indoor-outdoor enjoyment of amenities. Both Alexander and Meiselman hoped to capture and capitalize on the growing "second home market" of the era, appealing to potential buyers interested in an affordable vacation home.
Lastly, RCENO is proud to represent the seven Donald Wexler A.I.A. designed homes and the Alexander Ranch Homes near its northwestern most boundary.
The “Wexler’s” are the most innovative homes and are designated as Palm Springs Class One Historic Sites. These Wexler homes epitomize the exuberance and optimism of the mid-century modern era. They also showed their functionality of implementation, whereas every component of the entire home could be placed within its central core (kitchen, dual bathrooms) and literally shipped anywhere in the world. The unfortunate downfall of the Wexler homes was that the structural components were constructed entirely of steel. A sharp increase in the cost of steel shortly after construction of the seven homes made it unprofitable to build additional units.
Alternatively, on the tract designated for the steel homes, the Alexanders built the first phase of their newly redesigned ranch homes. These homes with their 1,456 square foot spacious interiors and open floor plans were now intended for year round living. The outside structure of these homes with their low hip roofline and angled beams has a distinctive Polynesian flair that was widely popular due to increasing interest in Hawaiian travel.
SUNMOR is a well-known central Palm Springs neighborhood comprised of a remarkably intact collection of mid-century homes built in the late 50s and early 1960s. The neighborhood is bordered by Palm Springs City Hall and the International Airport on the east, Farrell Drive on the west, and East Tamarisk and Andreas Road to the north and south respectively.
The two primary builders of Sunmor houses were locally prominent builder Robert “Bob” C. Higgins and the nationally prominent team of Robert Alexander and his father, George Alexander, of the Alexander Construction Company.
While Sunmor is generally known as an “Alexander” neighborhood, it was actually Bob Higgins who built the first houses and first imagined a neighborhood of affordable modernist tract homes in the present location. We know Higgins was a highly-competent builder engaged by many prominent architects because he is given credit for the construction of architect William Cody’s beautiful L’Horizon Hotel and architect Donald Wexler’s Alan Ladd residence (Higgins was also a partner in actor Alan Ladd, Sr.’s well-known Palm Springs hardware store, Ladd-Higgins Hardware). The earliest public mention of the Sunmor neighborhood appears in the July-August 1955 issue of Palm Springs Villager which enthusiastically announced that an “official groundbreaking” had taken place and that “building has begun on the extensive 213-acre Sunmor subdivision in Palm Springs.” The article identifies the Sands Realty and Development Company at 555 South Palm Canyon as the realtor of record with A. R. Simon as its president. Two other items of interest appear in the brief article. Firstly, Frank Bogert (discussed later) is identified as one of the “first purchasers” of a Sunmor home and the architectural firm of Wexler & Harrision is credited with having designed the Higgins-built homes.
The Sunmor neighborhood was next featured in both the September and October 1955 issues of Palm Springs Villager magazine in a pink-hued two-page advertisement for “Sunmor Estates…Palm Springs Newest Subdivision.” The 1955 advertisements identify a parcel of land at the terminus of Louella Avenue as “Present Construction” and other two land parcels are identified as “Planned Future Construction” to the west (almost to Sunrise Way) and south (as far as Ramon Road).
According to the advertisements, Sunmor Estates homes were priced “from $17,600″ and financed with 20-year loans. It is supposed that at least three homes had been built by September 1955 as the magazine advertisement touted “Dramatic 2, 3 and 4 Bedroom Homes Now on Display.”
Ultimately, only eleven houses were built by Higgins. While details are still murky, indications are that builder Higgins’ Sunmor Estates project faltered and by about 1957 the Alexander Construction Company had gobbled up many of the land parcels identified by Higgins and Sands Realty as potential future construction. Fortunately, Higgins’ designs blend nicely with the post-and-beam modernist houses built soon thereafter by the Alexander Construction Company.
Fortunately, the historic record regarding the Alexander Construction Company (responsible for building much of the mid-century housing stock in Palm Springs) is far more complete. In total, the Alexander Construction company is estimated to have built between 1,200-1,300 homes in the Palm Springs area between 1957 and 1965.
Similar advertisements of the era by the Alexander Construction Company touted tract homes “Designed by Architects, Built by Master Builders for Permanent Value.” The “architect” referred to is William Krisel (of the architectural firm of Palmer & Krisel). The Sunmor Alexander homes are Krisel’s “Ramon Rise” design. (The Ramon Rise neighborhood is located south of Ramon Road and to the west of El Cielo Drive and is now known as “Little Beverly Hills”). The Ramon Rise-Sunmor-Krisel connection was fortuitously unearthed by architect Jim Harlan in 2010 while doing research at the Getty’s architectural archives for the tribute journal The Alexanders: A Desert Legacy published by the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation.
The Alexanders were committed to the ideal that even in a luxury community like Palm Springs quality homes could be built to fit the budgets of lower and middle income families. With home prices in the late 1950′s generally starting at a modest $15,000, the homes were available to not only the elite Hollywood crowd but to more modest buyers. The Desert Sun newspaper recently opined that, “Because of their [the Alexanders'] vision, Palm Springs took a new shape and a new direction in development….Because of the Alexanders, Palm Springs has not only grown, it has grown in a much more balanced and solid way.
Over the years a number of minor Hollywood celebrities have called the Sunmor neighborhood home. However, the neighborhood’s most famous resident was most certainly the outspoken “cowboy mayor” Frank Bogert (1910-2009). Bogert served four terms as the city’s mayor from 1958-1966 and from 1982-1988 and was the author of two books that chronicled the early history of Palm Springs. Two cul-de-sacs in the Sunmor neighborhood have the distinction of being named after members of the Alexander family, i.e., Helene Alexander (Helena Circle) and her daughter Jill (Jill Circle).
The neighborhood sits on both sides of the Tahquitz “wash” just south of central Palm Springs. It was not always called Tahquitz River Estates. In the early 1930s, the first development was called Palos Verdes Estates and is still populated with charming "Old Palm Springs" Spanish revival homes. Some of these bungalows were under construction even before Palm Springs became incorporated back in 1938!
In 1947, when the banks of the Tahquitz Wash were stabilized, a famous Mid-Century builder from Los Angeles, Paul Trousdale, developed homes on either side of the banks, and called them "Tahquitz River Estates".