This year our RV travels included a birthday gift for me…participation in Palm Spring’s Modernism Week. Held in mid-February each year, the 10-day event offers over a dozen different activities for mid-century modern enthusiasts each day.
If the thought of owning a Cody, a Wexler or a Krisel causes you to smile; this is the event for you. During Modernism week Palm Springs’ typical lazy, laid back feel is electric. Thousands descend on the city to tour homes, take a bus, walking or bike tours, listen to lectures or shop for glass or lamps our parents discarded. If you are a MCM enthusiast and you know that Frey and Clark designed the Palm Springs City Hall, you will find many kindred souls at this event. If you are like us, people who appreciate the cool flat roofs, odd angles, lots of glass and a pop of color, but are novices…this is the event for you.
However, if you want to attend next year, shop early. Though some tickets are available the day of the event, the vast majority of events sell out in advance …we purchased our tickets in October.
Electric Cycle Tour
We participated in the Electric Cycle Tour on a cool day following some unseasonable rains. The rain stopped prior to our 2-hour tour and I can report every one of the 14 of us that participated had a very good time. This was the first year the Sunny Cycle folks participated in Modernism Week, and frankly, they are not MCM experts. However, our tour guide did point of important architectural details as we pedaled by historic estates in downtown Palm Springs. As the “cycle” is assisted by an electric motor, no one is required to do strenuous exercise…in fact, if you don’t want to pedal, don’t.
After about 60 minutes, we stopped at a popular Palm Springs eatery where free appetizers were provided and we indulged in happy hour drinks. After this 30 minute break, we boarded our “cycle” and we were introduced to a more traditional “Sunny Cycle Tour”. Music blaring, some people — Denise — dancing in the middle of the cycle, while pedestrians and passers-by wave and sang along.
Architecture Bus Tour
The next day we participated in the official, Deluxe Double Decker Architecture Bus Tour. A very knowledgeable guide offered us a Palm Springs history lesson…driving by the weekend get-aways of Hollywood icons and pointing out the distinct features of various homes. Movie stars, during the Golden Era, used Palm Springs as their get-away because their contracts required they remain within 100 miles of Hollywood when filming.
We drove past the residences of Frank Sinatra, Liberace and Dinah Shore. We passed a large estate with 12 cottages, one built especially for Rock Hudson. We were told the story of why Elvis and Priscilla had to escape to Las Vegas to marry and returned to honeymoon in the home shown here in Palm Springs. Of course, many of these compounds have high walls or hedges for privacy, so it was helpful to be on the top of the double-decker bus.
Restoration House Tour
As Denise and I have enjoyed renovating fixer-uppers, we also attended a seminar and house tour focusing on the restoration and renovation of these mid-century modern classics. While the striking architecture is hard to deny, the focus was on how to make these houses live in the 21st century where galley kitchens have been replaced by open floor plans and walk-in closets are considered a necessity. The couples who lived through these renovations were available at each home to share their insights and experiences.
There are over a dozen different events each day…these are only a few. At the end Modernism Week there is a Vintage Trailer Show, and we will report on that next week.