Posts tagged with "Donald Wexler":

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Desert Modernism in Palm Springs cleared for National Register of Historic Places

Given that Palm Springs is a destination for sun-soaked desert modernism, it’s surprising to learn that a number of structures by the area’s best-known architects are not protected. That changed earlier this month when the California State Historical Resources Commission voted to nominate ten buildings by Albert Frey, including Palm Springs City Hall and the iconic Frey House II, as well as the Town & Country Center in Palm Springs designed by Paul R. Williams and A. Quincy Jones for the National Register of Historic Places. The vote was a milestone in preservation efforts in Palm Springs, a city that’s recently seen parts of its architectural history bulldozed for new developments. Recently midcentury modern Spa Resort Casino complex, noted for its concrete-vaulted entry colonnade and designed by William Cody, Donald Wexler, Richard Harrison, and Phillip Koenig, was demolished in the face of preservationist opposition. The Desert Sun reported that the National Register placements are moving forward despite opposition by two owners: The Mount San Jacinto Winter Park Authority, which oversees Frey’s Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, and Town & Country Center owners Wessman Development. The Tramway owners cite potential development restrictions down the line as their challenge to the nomination. John Wessman’s objections stem from a larger architectural and urban issue: the redevelopment of central Palm Springs and the fact that the Palm Springs City Council city rejected a Historic Site Preservation Board recommendation to list the Town & Country Center as a Class I Historic Site. As The Desert Sun noted:
Wessman argues that the building is a poor example of mid-century architecture and is problematic to lease due to its awkward layout, low ceilings and other deficiencies. The building also stands in the way of a proposed new street for the area that would form an east-west axis connecting the Palm Springs Art Museum with other areas like the Palm Springs Convention Center.
Writing for AN in 2011, Tom Stoelker reported that the museum's relationship to the Town & Country Center is "tricky."

There is the opportunity to connect the museum to tourists and residents, expand within the new complex, and gain visibility—literally—from blocks away. On the other hand, they’ll likely incur the wrath of Palm Spring’s vigilant preservationist community. “We are very interested in working with the city and Wessman, but we are by no means endorsing the destruction of Town and Country,” said museum spokesperson Bob Bogard. “The museum is very interested in an east-west corridor.”

The complete list of nominated Frey buildings are: Kocher-Samson Building (1934), Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher Sieroty House (1946) Loewy House (1946-47) Carey-Pirozzi House (1946) Palm Springs City Hall (1952) Fire Station #1 (1957), Frey and Robson Chambers Frey House II (1964) Tramway Valley Station (1963) Tramway Gas Station and Visitors Center (1965) North Shore Yacht Club (1959)
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Preservationists taken by surprise as demolition begins on Wexler's Palm Springs Spa Hotel

As preservationists steam, demolition teams working in the desert heat have begun to tear down Donald Wexler's famed Spa Hotel in downtown Palm Springs. The hotel was closed in early June by its owners, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.  To add insult to injury, the demolition has begun with the hotel's most famous element: it's elegant, concrete-vaulted colonnade. "We are outraged and upset. We've been trying to provide information to the tribe on how this hotel could be successfully restored and renovated. They mention communication about everything. But it wasn't until I drove by that we saw that the demolition had started," Palm Springs Modern Committee (PS MODCOM) Executive Director Nickie McLaughlin told AN.   The Spa Bathhouse and Hotel, acknowledged as one of the city's most significant buildings, was designed in 1955 by a collaboration of elite Palm Springs architects including not just Wexler, but William Cody, Richard Harrison, and Phillip Koenig. McLaughlin confirmed that the colonnade's destruction had been completed on September 3. McLaughlin said PS MODCOM had been talking with Agua Caliente since July 14, and were given the impression that the tribe had no plans on the table for immediate demolition. The assumed lack of plans also allowed the tribe to circumvent CEQA rules, she said. According to the Desert Sun, because the demolition takes place on tribal land it is a "tribal action," and not subject to any state or federal environmental protections. "I think they're not true to their word and I think this is a very poor display of how they operate," said McLaughlin, who added that PS MODCOM and the tribe had discussed the possibility of restoring the existing building (with the tribe receiving various tax credits) and constructing new facilities to the north. Another organization, the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation, encouraged members and interested parties to send over 1,000 letters to the tribe urging them to reconsider the demolition. "It’s really nauseating," said Wexler's son Brian Wexler. "It’s so disappointing that one of the most iconic structures of Palm Springs has been lost." He said his brother Gary was driving by when demolition started and sounded the alarm. It is unclear what Agua Caliente plans to build on the site. At this point calls to the tribe had not been returned. "We are in the planning stages of creating a vision for this key location in downtown Palm Springs," Agua Caliente Tribal Chairman Jeff L. Grubbe said, in a statement. "Our next steps include demolition of existing structures as well as taking the necessary steps to protect and preserve the hot mineral spring."