02 February 2011

Destinations - a January weekend in Palm Springs

This past weekend was my first trip to Palm Springs since 1997.  I enjoyed the visit then, but this time something clicked and now I really understand why Palm Springs is such a popular winter destination.

I am not fond of hot weather, but conditions were perfect this mid-January weekend: highs in the low 80s, lows at night in the 40s, and crystal clear skies.  Even the mild Sacramento Valley winters I experience get tedious, and for those living in far harsher climates elsewhere in this country and Canada, 80 degrees in January is paradisical.

Many people fly to Ontario, about 75 miles west, and then drive to Palm Springs.  But Palm Springs has its own airport (PSP), which is both super convenient  (Palm Springs City Hall is two blocks away) and exceptionally pleasant.

Tales of tails: two WestJet 737s at the gate in Palm Springs
It gets you in the mood for the place instantly with its outdoor spaces and remarkable view from the arrivals hall of the San Jacinto Mountains that
form the dramatic backdrop to the city.  The airport has a concourse appropriately named the Sonny Bono Concourse and a newer non-jetway terminal for smaller aircraft such as we flew from Sacramento on Horizon Air.

Sonny Bono, just in case you didn't grow up during the same era I did, was the male half of Sonny & Cher, later divorced from Cher and remarried.  He served as the mayor of Palm Springs for a number of years, before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives until he died in a skiing accident in 1998.  His widow Mary Bono was named to fill the seat, and has been reelected every two years since then.

After we landed I spotted two planes of WestJet, the Canadian carrier that is similar to Southwest.  Later I checked their schedules, which demonstrate the winter appeal of Palm Springs to Canadians: nonstop flights from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto.

Our visit was made economical and more fun by staying with and being entertained by our friends Denis (as in "Dennis") and Rob who live there since moving from San Francisco a few years ago.  Keith has a history that goes way, way back with Denis: he was Keith's high school music teacher in suburban Chicago from 1967 to 1970.  At Keith's high school reunion back in June (blogged about in "Chicago, my kind of town"), the two reconnected a mere 40 years later. and from that this trip resulted.

Call it the Madmen effect, call it nostalgia for the time when I was a small kid, but for the last couple of years I've developed an interest in and appreciation for what is called midcentury modern design.  Though Palm Springs began to grow in the 1930s when it was discovered by Hollywood, it really started to take off after WWII.  Because of that, it is a Mecca for those who want to see a lot of buildings from the midcentury era, roughly 1945-1970.

The city cultivates and promotes this heritage with a self-guided tour and map of what they deem the top 10.  (Here's a slideshow from Palm Springs Life that includes many of the ten.)  I'm delighted to say, I checked 6 out of 10 off of the list, and saw many more splended examples that failed to make the list.  All thanks go to Denis and Rob, for playing patient tourguides in their town.  Their own house and neighborhood is a beautiful 1966 example of the midcentury modern period in the area of Palm Springs known as the Alexander tract.

Bet you never expected you'd see photos of a Bank of America in this blog, but the bank's building in downtown Palm Springs is considered a fine midcentury example and on the "top ten" list.

On the sidewalk by the bank.  Think of the concrete contractor's sidewalk imprint like a date and mintmark on a coin.

PALM SPRINGS CITY HALL (with Rob adorning railing)

(Note: flags are at half-staff due to the recent shootings in Tucson)

Looking west from the Tramway Gas Station parking lot toward the San Jacinto Mountains.  The road in the distance leads to the tramway.

These last photos are of Denis and Rob's home, a 1966 midcentury beauty in the Alexander tract.  The ethereal moonlight night shot was taken by Rob - thanks!


1 comment:

  1. A great post - Mid Century is such a great period. Though I always think that it forces you to live in a (not so bad) certain manner to be effective. Did you pick up a Julius Shulman book? Next stop, Columbus, Indiana!