Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rachel deBrabant Residence

Rachel deBrabant Residence (1929, Architect Unknown)
982 Avenida de las Palmas
Palm Springs

I have been working on a new book project for the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation to be published in conjunction with Desert Spanish Weekensd,March 23, entitled Desert Spanish, the Early Architecture of Palm Springs. It will feature this large Spanish Colonial Revival estate that was built for Rachel de Brabant on land she purchased in 1927 from physician-turned-real estate developer Jacob John Kocher. The house was built in a barren desert-scape on a large through-lot that extended from Avenida de las Palmas to Via Miraleste. The rear one-third of the parcel was sold off in the 1980s to provide lots for two new homes. The property is located in the Las Hacenditas (“Little Haciendas”) Tract in the Movie Colony neighborhood and bears evidence of having been architect-designed, although the designer has not been identified. When the house was built, the deBrabants were living in Alhambra, California near Pasadena. With their interest in the arts, they are likely to have commissioned one of the prominent Pasadena architects to design their Spanish Colonial Revival-style home.

Paul Grimm Painting of the deBrabant Courtyard

The deBrabant's interest and involvement in the arts community is documented by artist biographer Edan Hughes who refers to Marius’ sketching trips to Palm Springs. Additionally a painting of the house by Paul Grimm reinforces the connection to the arts community as does an image of painter Hanson Duvall Puthuff (1875-1972) in the deBrabant living room. Puthuff is known to have painted in Palm Springs, although he best-known for the paintings that were done near the hills and mountains of his home. The walls of the deBrabant home were hung with images of the desert and the California coastline. Smoketree school painter Sam Hyde Harris also made desert trips with fellow painter Hanson Puthuff and may have encountered the deBrabants.

Hansen Puthuff in the deBrabant Living Room

In this 5,000 sq. ft. Spanish Colonial Revival home, an L-shaped floor plan is laid out around a forecourt that recalls the layout of a Spanish Hacienda. A short east-west axis leads the visitor directly through the Foyer to the rear garden. North of the Foyer are the Dining and Kitchen areas. South of the Foyer, the Living Room features a tall cathedral ceiling with exposed and stenciled wooden trusses. Continuing on from the Living Room, the “foot” of the L-shape contains a single-loaded corridor that functions as a Gallery that provides access to several en-suite bedrooms, each with a private bath. The Gallery may have been designed in response to Rachel’s program requirement for a space to exhibit the deBrabant’s collection of plein air paintings. A second floor suite with exterior access surmounts the Dining Room and provides an isolated guest suite.

The entire complex is roofed with hand-made red clay roof tiles with broad protective roof overhangs. In a unique and picturesque architectural expression, the exterior walls of cement plaster are studded with native rock. Originally painted white, today the home is a warm sand color, and most of the original features of the house survive intact or have been restored. In 1956 a shed-roofed addition and a carport (later enclosed as a garage) were added. Today the deBrabant residence is surrounded by mature landscaping. In the rear of the property a rectangular pool, patio and large sheltered porch were built to add to the indoor/outdoor usability of the home.

Immigration:The de Brabants Arrive in New York
The reasons for manufacturer Alphonse deBrabant’s (1847-1901) immigration from Belgium to the United States with his children are lost to time, but in 1886 the 37-year old father of two arrived in New York along with his 17-year old daughter Rachel (1869-1943) and 14-year old son Marius (1872 - 1936). The small family initially resided on West 58th Street. No mention of a wife has been recorded, so it is likely that Alphonse was a widower. It is possible that a third child, Adrian (b. 1876) remained in Belgium with other family members. Marius and Rachel became naturalized citizens in 1894. The family were reputedly members of Belgian aristocracy - Marius is sometimes referred to as “Baron deBrabant.”

Within a few years, Marius, then in his early twenties, had begun a successful career as a Railroad Agent in New York. Rachel remained single throughout her life, but the two shared homes in both New York and California and traveled abroad extensively during the years 1916-1936. Passports listed Marius as the head of the household with Rachel listed as his sister. In a Passport Application in 1894, Marius also listed himself as a manufacturer with a business address of 63 Wall Street. On that trip he was to be traveling for about 6 months. Rachel’s travels: After her arrival in the U.S. in 1886, she completed her next Atlantic crossing returning in 1897 with her brothers Marius and Adrian. Rachel did not travel outside the U.S. again until 1923; between the years 1923 and 1930, Rachel made six trips abroad. Construction of her home and the Great Depression may have curtailed Rachel’s travel; her next European trip was in 1936, and her last in 1938.

The deBrabants in California
According to a newspaper article, the deBrabants made their first trip to California in 1906 and by 1920 were living near Los Angeles at No 4 Halsted Circle in the town of Alhambra in a modest home that still exists and was maintained by the deBrabants until Rachel’s death in 1943. According to artist’s biographer Edan Hughes Marius was known to have made “painting trips to Palm Springs,” but was not considered a professional artist. By 1929 the siblings were living in Palm Springs. Here, the deBrabants moved in artistic circles with such California landscape painters as Paul Grimm and Hansen Puthuff. Known primarily for his landscapes, Grimm created an unusual painting of the deBrabant courtyard in the early 1930s. A Gayle Thompson Archive photo shows Puthuff, seemingly very much at home, in a smock standing before an easel in the deBrabant Living Room.

William Andrews Clark Residence (1907, Lord, Hewlett & Hull, and others); called "the most ostentatious Beau-Arts Baroque" house on Fifth Avenue.

In 1925, at 53, and seemingly a confirmed bachelor, Marius and Rachel were living a quietly domestic life at their home in Alhambra. The “budding railroad magnate” was at that time a Vice-President with the Union Pacific Railroad Co. in Los Angeles. Then, on February 1925 in a private ceremony, unknown to their friends, Marius became the third husband of Mary Joaquina Clark of Glendale and New York City. The ceremony took place in the enormous 926 Fifth Avenue mansion (see above) that was home to Mary’s 86-year old father, William Andrews Clark.

He was a U.S. copper industrialist and former Senator for Montana, and one of the world’s wealthiest men. Clark had successively been a miner, teamster, merchant, railway builder, capitalist, and late in life, an art collector. Clark died a week after Mary’s wedding making Mary and each of her siblings very wealthy. Although previously married to two wealthy husbands, Mary had also received an annual income of $200,000 from her father; upon his demise, his $200 million was divided among his six children. As it turns out, her wealth did not assure her happiness; it appears that she continued to live a somewhat solitary social life in New York, while Marius continued to share quarters with his sister.

In addition to her Glendale home, the new Mrs. deBrabant also maintained an enormous apartment in one of New York’s most prestigious apartment buildings of the day at No. 7 East 51st, located across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. She also resided at her 80-acre turn-of-the-century Gold Coast estate, a Tudor-style mansion called "Plaisance" on Long Island. With her well-documented social life, Mary Clark deBrabant doings were often mentioned in New York newspapers, but Marius was rarely mentioned. After Mary’s death, "Plaisance" fell into disrepair and was demolished. The land was eventually sold and subdivided in the 1950s. Remains of the estate’s reflection pool, sunken garden and brick walls on the property survive on the property.

The Clark’s biographer William Mangum sheds some light on the deBrabant marriage: “Marius de Brabant, a distant relative of the King of Belgium, was somewhat younger than his wife. He had a particularly gracious personality, was good looking, public-spirited, and efficient. He was best-known in Los Angeles for his activities in the development of the city, his efforts being largely devoted to the improvement of the harbour. He occupied important honorary positions in many organizations in the city, and did much for artistic interests.

Marius at the Palm Springs Home

“Within six months following his [August 1925] marriage, deBrabant became afflicted with a mental ailment, from which he never fully recovered. He was sent to Palm Springs, California, some three hours from Los Angeles; only a few months before he had been so active and prominent. In Palm Springs he was to be seen, carelessly dressed, strolling around in his garden in a listless fashion. It was rumored at one time that Mary Clark deBrabant contemplated a divorce, but she never actually instituted proceedings.”

This is the first mention of the deBrabant’s arrival in the desert. In light of Marius’ health issues, the assumption that Marius was the “good brother” who protected his spinster sister, must be re-examined. It appears that her brother’s illness required Rachel to assume the role of head of the household, and it was she who commissioned the Palm Springs house, completed four years after the onset of Marius’ illness. Although no images of Rachel have been located, several images of Marius strolling he grounds of the Palm Springs home with his dogs have survived. The last European trip that Rachel and Marius would share returned from LeHavre to NYC to on August 3, 1936. The ship’s manifest lists the siblings as residing in Palm Springs. Marius died in his wife’s home in Glendale six weeks later on September 16, 1936.

The marriage notwithstanding, following with the completion of Rachel’s Palm Springs home in 1929, the siblings listed their residence as the “unincorporated Palm Springs Village.” The deBrabants were never very well-known in Palm Springs. The 1987 HSPB list refers to Rachel as “Madame De Berbont (sic), which continues to perpetuate the inaccurate local myth that Rachel was the wife of a French diplomat. Although never married, Rachel continued to maintain the homes in Alhambra and Palm Springs until her death in 1943; she continued to be listed in the Palm Springs Telephone Directory until 1947. She willed her Palm Springs property to her friend Susanne Schambach who inexplicably occasionally listed herself as “Susanne Schambach deBrabant.” Subsequent owners of Rachel’s Palm Springs home include Adam and Ruth Hitchner; Abram and Rose Simon; and Essaness Pictures Corporation in 1952.

Before Marius’ death, Rachel persuaded Marius to create a scholarship fund at the University of California / Riverside. This fund, the Marius deBrabant Fund, also known as the Chancellor's Performance Award was established in July of 1967 with a gift of $77,678.63 from DeBrabant’s estate. The benefactor deBrabant was described as the Vice President of the Los Angeles-Pacific Navigation Company and is considered a noteworthy figure in early 20th century in California History. Income from his gift was to be used to fund scholarships for incoming freshman in the Fine Arts.

Another bequest from Marius’ estate was reported in the June 24, 1947, Long Beach Independent. The estate donated a check in the amount of $287,670.15 earmarked for the development of a stroke center at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, California. Mrs. Edith Haubrichs, assistant trust officer Bank of America and former State Senator Leonard J Difani of Riverside County were trustees of the estate. The funds were to be used in the development of a stroke center for the care and treatment of elderly patients at Rancho Los Amigos suffering from stroke and providing a facility for the improvement of the knowledge of the disease, its related disabilities and the development of new treatment techniques.

Upon application by the current owners, who are also collectors of California art, the deBrabant Residence was designated a Class One Historic Site in 2009. Today, the deBrabant Residence has been beautifully restored and filled with the sort of early California art that would make Rachel and Marius feel right at home.

Traffic World, An Independent National Transportation Newsmagazine, Vol. 25
International Railway Journal, Vol. 26
American Contractor, Vol. 42
Who’s Who in Railroading in North America, Issue 8.
MacKay, Robert B.(ed.) with Anthony Baker and Carol Traynor, Long Island Country Houses and their Architects, 1880-1940. New York, W. W. Norton & Co.: 1997
Hughes, Edan Milton, Artists in California 1786 – 1940. Sacramento: Crocker Art Museum: 2002.
Mangam, William D., The Clarks, An American Phenomenon. New York: Silver Bow Press, 1941.

Historic images courtesy The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rediscovered William Cody

My Realtor friend Keith introduced me to this 1957 (County Assessor's date) residence that appears to have been designed by Bill Cody. Maybe not instantly recognizable from the exterior, the interior reveals itself to be architect-designed with numerous Cody style details, including his signature Kitchen windows that rest upon the counter tops, sans the usual 4" splash. More exciting however are the numerous paneled walls that are an exercise in minimalism. Much of the paneling conceals cabinetry without any obvious hardware.

Some City Directory research indicates that the property / home (?)was owned by Alex C. Meyer as early as 1951. The Cal Poly Cody Box List has no mention of Meyer or this address. Will have to dig deeper...

The new owner seems appreciative of the extraordinary architectural character of the house and willing to go the extra mile to preserve the character-defining features. Long-overdue is the Cody Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, but that will change during Modernism Week this year; his star will be at the corner of Baristo and South Palm Canyon - just outside the new Edwards-Harris Museum of Architecture and Design....

John Corson Snyder Residence

John Corzon Snyder Residence (1932, Architect Unknown)
271 Merito Place

I once attended a Christmas party at this house. It exudes warmth as only a Spanish style home can. A typical hacienda form, it was the prefect blend of indoor / outdoor living, and even at Christmas time the party was mostly outdoors. Most of the original details are intact, and it appears to have been built by Alvah Hicks and his carpenter Lee Miller. The roof trusses are spectacular.

It was built for John Corson Snyder (1887- ) who was born on a farm near Middletown, Ohio, the son of Jacob C. and Mary (Kemp) Snyder. The Snyders moved from Middletown to a farm near Crawfordsville, Indiana when their son, John was seven years of age. They later moved to a farm in southwestern Missouri. John C. Snyder, the subject of this sketch attended district schools near Crawfordsville and later took a business course in Kansas City, Missouri. When he was 15 years of age he accompanied his parents to Southwestern Missouri where he remained until 21 years of age. He taught school several years when a young man and after attending Business College, engaged in the real estate business for a short time. Prior to 1893 he was associated with his brothers, Frank L. and Harry K. Snyder in a lead and zinc mining enterprise near Joplin Missouri for several years.

Beginning in 1924, he was an insurance company executive and served as the president of the Elston Bank & Trust Company of Crawfordsville. During the WWI he directed many activities in Montgomery, heading drives for the American Red Cross, YMCA, War Chest and Liberty Loan. He served on the executive committee of the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce and was chairman of that body in 1918 and president in 1919. He served 3 terms as president of the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce. He formerly was a member of the Crawfordsville School Board. Mr. Snyder, who is independent in politics, is a member of the Masonic Lodge; Shriners; Rotary Club; Crawfordsville Country Club; Elks Lodge; Montgomery County Chapter, Citizens Historical and St. John's Episcopal Church. Mr. Snyder was active in civic affairs and in undertakings for public betterment.

Frank Shields Residence

FRANK SHIELDS RESIDENCE (1936, Architect Unknown)
287 West Racquet Club

This Ranch Style residence was built for Frank Shields and his first wife Rebecca Tenney. Francis Xavier Alexander ("Frank") Shields, Sr. (1909 - 1975) was an amateur American tennis player of the 1920s and 1930s. The home was located near the Racquet Club where Shields was often seen on the courts. It is one of the few surviving residential properties to relate to the period of the Racquet Club’s period of significance. Stylistically it would be considered an early picturesque Ranch House property. It appears to be in nearly original condition with a high degree of architectural integrity. In addition to a career as an actor and a highly ranked tennis player, Shields is also the grandfather of model / actress Brooke Shields. The house is listed on the 1987 HSPB List, but in a recent meeting to consider the building’s proposed demolition, the members failed to adopt a stay of demolition. By the time you read this, the building will most likely have been demolished.

Between 1928 and 1945 he was ranked eight times in the U.S. Top Ten, reaching Number 1 in 1933, and Number 2 in 1930.

Davis Cup
He competed for the Davis Cup in 1931, 1932, and 1934, winning 19 of 25 matches. He was left off the team for his erratic playing in 1933.[1] Shields was the non-playing captain in 1951, when the team won four matches. Shields had his issues both with interactions with other players, and with alcohol.[2][3][4] In the late 1930s, Shields was known for making fun of the US tennis star Bryan Grant, the smallest American to win an international championship, saying "the little shaver" was hiding behind the net. Once a drunk Shields held Grant upside down, outside a hotel window.[5]

In 1951 he was at the center of a controversy that resulted in Dick Savitt, reigning US singles champion, quitting competitive tennis at the age of 25 after Shields snubbed him by failing to let Savitt play for the U.S. Davis Cup team. Savitt had played and won his three early 1951 Cup matches, winning 9 of 10 sets, en route to leading the American team into the championship round against Australia.[6] Shields did not permit Savitt to compete against the Aussies whom, only months earlier, Savitt had dominated at Wimbledon and in Australia. Savitt had trounced Australia’s top seed Ken McGregor in three straight sets to win at Wimbledon and won the Australian Singles championship, becoming the first non-Aussie to win that title in 13 years. Ted Schroeder, who had lost every one of his Davis Cup matches the year before and was in semi-retirement, was chosen instead. Without Savitt playing singles, the United States lost the 1951 Davis Cup to Australia.

The controversy spilled over into the next year, at the annual meeting of the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association when the national rankings were discussed. In its tentative rankings the U.S.L.T.A. put Savitt at number 3. As it was reported, "the loudest talker was Frank Shields, non-playing captain of the losing U.S. Davis Cup team. Shields had ignored Savitt in the Davis Cup matches, had put his confidence in aging (30) Ted Schroeder ... who turned out to be the goat of the series. Shields was intent on keeping Savitt ranked ... at No. 3. Cried Shields: 'Never once in the past three months has Savitt looked like a champion. Not only that, but he was not the most cooperative player in the world while we were in Australia, and his sounding off brought discredit to the game. He was not a credit either as a player or a representative of America.' Shields's outburst brought a tart answer from Don McNeill, onetime (1940) national champion. Amid resounding applause from the assembled delegates, McNeill pointed out that players are ranked on their tennis ability, and personal prejudice should have nothing to do with ranking. The ranking committee, ignoring Shields's remarks, proceeded to raise Savitt from No. 3 to 2. After the heated session, one of the longest (five hours) in U.S.L.T.A. history, President Russell B. Kingman tried to restore a touch of dignity to tennis. Choosing his words with due care, Kingman called Shields's outburst 'most unseemly.'[7]

His first wife was Rebecca Tenney (1910–2005). They were married in 1932 and divorced in 1940, on the grounds of his "habitual intemperance and cruelty."[8] In 1947, she married lawyer Donald Agnew.
His second wife, whom he married in 1940 and later divorced, was Marina Torlonia di Civitella-Cesi, a daughter of Marino Torlonia, 4th prince of Civitella-Cesi and the American heiress Mary Elsie Moore (1888–1941), and a sister of Alessandro Torlonia, 5th Prince di Civitella-Cesi, the husband of the Spanish Infanta Beatriz de Borb√≥n. Shields had two children by Marina Torlonia: son Frank Xavier Alexander, Jr. (the father of actress-model Brooke Shields), and daughter Cristiana Marina Shields. After their divorce, Marina Shields married Edward Slater.
His third wife, whom he married in 1949, and also later divorced, was Katharine Mortimer, a daughter of financier Stanley Grafton Mortimer, Sr., and the former wife of Oliver Cadwell Biddle. By his third marriage he had three children, Katharine Shields, William Xavier Orin Hunt Shields, and Alston Shields. He also had a stepdaughter, Christine Mortimer Biddle.

In his later years he was frequently drunk, at which times he became destructive and bullying with his strength. After two heart attacks and a stroke, he died at 65 of a third heart attack, in a Manhattan taxi.[9] He was the grandfather of Brooke Shields, Morgan Christina Shields, and Holton Joseph Shields.

Shields appeared in the following films:
Murder in the Fleet – 1935 as "Lieutenant Arnold"
I Live My Life – 1935 as "outer office secretary"
Come and Get It – 1936 – as "Tony Schwerke"
The Affairs of Cappy Ricks – 1937 – as "Waldo Bottomley, Jr."
Hoosier Schoolboy – 1937 – as "Jack Matthews. Jr."
Dead End – 1937 – as "well-dressed man"
The Goldwyn Follies – 1938 – as "assistant director"

Shields was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island in 1964.

Career highlights
Cincinnati Singles Champion, 1930
US Open Singles finalist, 1930
US Open Mixed doubles finalist, 1930
Wimbledon Singles finalist, 1931
US Open Doubles finalist, 1933
United States Davis Cup team member 1931–32, 1934

Monday, Jan. 01, 1934 (January 1, 1934). "RECOVERY: Man of the Year, 1933". TIME. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
From this moment on: America in 1940. September 16, 2008. .
Graham, Sheilah (July 24, 1937). "Proquest".
"Player profile - Dick SAVITT (USA)". Davis Cup.
Monday, Jan. 28, 1952 (January 28, 1952). "Sport: Most Unseemly". Time.
"Frank Shields Is Divorced". The New York Times.

Reuben Shettler Residence

Reuben Shettler Residence, (1949, Architect Unknown)
444 Chino Drive

I’ve always been curious about this discreet little Spanish Colonial that has resisted the changes that have resulted in a number of McMansions in the neighborhood. This one was built for Reuben Shettler and appears to be largely unaltered. Shettler was the millionaire inventor of the friction clutch, as well as one of the early investors in the Reo Automobile.

In 1906, Shettler built his Los Angeles home at 3100 Wilshire Boulevard designed by Hunt, Burns and Eager. Later, Bullock’s Wilshire would be built next door. The residence survives today, but has been sub-divided into shops.

The following is a brief biography of Shettler: “Reuben Schettler. In the making of his choice of a permanent location as well as in his identification with a growing industry Mr. Schettler feels that he has been especially fortunate. His interest in Los Angeles dates from the year 1895, when for the first time he came here there to spend a season where the climate was less trying than in the middle west, or the greater part of his life had been spent. After a number of seasons similarly spent he decided to take up his permanent residence here, a decision which has proven of mutual benefit to Mr. Schettler and to Los Angeles as well. Born in London, England, in 1853, he was a lad of seven years when with his parents he came to the United States and settled on a farm near Canadaigua, Ontario County, N. Y. He was educated principally in the public schools of that vicinity and at the age of 20 years he took up the burden of self-support. Of a mechanical turn of mind he naturally looked for employment in that line and was more than ordinarily successful in his efforts. Going to Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1873 he took up mechanics, having a natural inclination for that line of work and in his experience in running threshing machines made observations which led to the manufacturer of the Schettler thresher. The machine was at first manufactured at Battle Creek by the Upton Manufacturing Company, but later the plant was moved to Port Huron, Mr. Schettler becoming largely interested in the company, and until 1853 was superintendent of the plant.

In the meantime Mr. Schettler invented the friction clutch for use in the mechanism of traction engines and threshers, a basic patent which marked the beginning of the great success in the running of rapid moving machinery. Prior to this the positive clutch of been the embodiment of the highest knowledge along this line. The friction clutch is now used universally the world over and it can be safely said that automobile he would not be a success were it not for the basic principle which it involves. It was in 1886 that Mr. Schettler located in Lansing, Michigan, and established himself in the jobbing business, representing Huber Manufacturing Company, manufacturers of threshers and heavy machinery. The business grew to a large proportion and gave great promise of continued success, but notwithstanding this Mr. Schettler finally withdrew his interest in the business, having in the meantime become largely interested in the manufacturer of automobiles. Coexistent with his invention of the friction clutch was the possibility of its application to the running gear of the automobile, and his interest in the manufacturer of this machine to be said to date from this time. In 1886 he rode in a steam automobile, made by R. E. Olds, a car which afterwards sold in Australia. Two years afterwards, in 1888, Mr. Schettler became associated with Mr. Olds in the manufacture of gas engines and gasoline automobiles. Mr. Schettler being the first person interested with Mr. Olds in what later became the Olds motor works. In 1903 Mr. Schettler organized the Reo motorcar company, of which he is still vice president, and during that year the company erected shops in Lansing and began the manufacturer of the Reo automobile. The sale of the Reo in the United States is eclipsed that of any other automobile, a statement which is borne out by the fact that in 1907 a manufactured 4,250 cars, the business amounting to $4.5 million. As an index of the business which they expect to do during the year 1908 it may be said that they have increased the size of the plant to an extent that will enable them to turn out one third more business than during the previous year, or over 6,000 cars. An indication of the appreciation in which the employee of the company are held it may not be out of place here to mention that during the year 1907 the company paid to them a dividend of 5% on the amount of their yearly wages, this applying to each and every employee.

Mr. Schettler's marriage united him with Sarah B Thorpe, who was born and Tecumseh Michigan, a descendent of Governor Winslow of Massachusetts. She is a woman of rare literary qualities and is well known and club circles in Los Angeles, being a member of the Ebell, Friday morning and Ruskin Art clubs as well as of the Young Women's Christian Association. Both Mr. and Mrs. Schettler are members of the Episcopal Church and politically Mr. Schettler is a Republican. Their only son Leon T. is the Pacific Coast agent for the Reo automobile. In addition to the business and interests already mentioned, Mr. Schettler was an important factor in financial circles in his former home city, being one of the organizers of the Capital National Bank of Lansing, and he is now a director of the American National Bank of Los Angeles. Personally no one is held in higher esteem than Mr. Schettler. Qualities of a high order endear him to a special circle of friends, both in business and social life no worthy undertakings are carried forward without his support, in fact no one appeals to him in vain for sympathy and help, and much of his needs is given for the uplifting of his fellow man. Though at one time he was very actively identified with business affairs he is now living practically retired.” - A History of California and an Extended History of Its Southern Coast Counties by J. M. Guinn, A. M. Published by the Historic Record Company of Los Angeles California, 1907.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Von's Fueling Station at Rimrock Center

The first image is of a demolished Don Wexler designed fueling station; many still regard it as the town's best. I have written before about Palm Springs abundance of architect-designed fueling stations. The best-know of the bunch is the one designed by Frey & Chambers that now houses the Visitor Center on North Palm Canyon. Almost as well-known is the one that William Cody designed just down the road from the Visitor’s Center. Recently, a new fueling station has appeared in front of the Von’s Rimrock Center on East Palm Canyon. It was in-process for years, and its original design featured a red clay tile mansard roof form over the pump canopy, ostensibly designed to complement the existing Spanish-style strip mall. Other features included faux-pilasters on the corners clad with a thin stone veneer, a cap molding in plaster atop the convenience store element, and trellises on each side to make the ensemble a little cozier. The project was abandoned for a number of years but finally came back to life about two years ago. In going through the architectural review process, it was suggested that the out-of-town project architect take a look at some of the better designed fueling station around town for inspiration, and they were reminded that the town is increasingly well-known for its modernist architecture. Both the Frey & Chambers and the William Cody stations were suggested as models for how the new station might appear. In some ways, it looks like the advice was taken, although the trellises have survived intact. The new station in its way reflects the simplicity and elegance of the William Cody station, only with a much thicker canopy [second photo.] Through the magic of Photoshop, I have made a minor change to the image of the existing station to suggest how it might have appeared had it come from Cody's office [third photo.] The last image is of the Cody design. All in all, the new station is a worthy solution...although one could still quibble about the appropriateness of putting a fueling station on that site at all...