City all shook up over unpermitted ‘Elvis House’ work

City all shook up over unpermitted ‘Elvis House’ work

Robert Alexander outside The House of Tomorrow in 1962. (Photo by Look Magazine)

It’s now or never for preservation of a Palm Springs home that has been the subject of a burning love for many admirers.

The home, currently a Class 3 historic property located at 1350 Ladera Circle, was dubbed The House of Tomorrow when it was constructed in 1960 by architect William Krisel for real estate developer Robert Alexander and his family. It is best known as the “Elvis House” after singer Elvis Presley and his new bride, Priscilla, stayed at the residence during their 1967 honeymoon.

Elvis and Priscilla Presley outside The House of Tomorrow in Palm Springs in 1967.

Work being done at the home is what has suspicious minds in the city all shook up. In May, the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board unanimously denied permission for exterior alterations to the property after discovering that demolition of terrazzo pool decking had already started. Board members ordered a 120-day stop to all work at the home to consider making it a Class 1 historic property. That designation would bring extra scrutiny to any future alterations, as well as additional protections for the property.

On Thursday, the Board voted to extend the stay by 60 days to allow for a public hearing on the elevated designation before the Palm Springs City Council, which has been in recess during August. Board members also voiced unanimous support for the Class 1 designation.

Demolition of the terrazzo pool deck and exterior steps at The House of Tomorrow caught the attention of the city after a pool company applied for a permit. (Photo by City of Palm Springs)

The home has changed hands a dozen times since it was first constructed. It most recently sold for $2.6 million in December 2020 to Dan Bridge and Paul Armitstead, an architect from Seattle. At the May Preservation Board meeting, Armitstead expressed regret for moving forward with the work without the necessary permits and offered to pay for the historic report needed as part of the consideration of the Class 1 status.

Armitstead again expressed remorse Thursday while voicing support for the Class 1 designation. “It has always been our intent to make this house the best that it can be,” he said.

As for the unpermitted work, an attorney representing both Bridge and Armitstead, Rob Bernheimer, explained that, while the owners should not have done anything to the property without prior approval, the decking was simply not salvageable.

“They are extremely excited to be able to restore this house,” said Bernheimer. “But there are challenges with this house. It was neglected for many, many, many years.”

In the report paid for by the owners this year, contained in public documents available here, numerous reasons are given to support the Class 1 designation. Its association with Presley was not a significant factor. Rather, the architectural significance of the house is what matters most.

An earlier report, completed in 2003, called the home “an outstanding example of innovative residential buildings” and recommended it be considered for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Because of the building’s visual quality, history, intact setting, and high integrity, the building represents the overall residential development of this neighborhood in the 1960s and 1970s and contributes to the historic identity of Palm Springs as an enclave for progressive architecture,” that reported stated. “The structure represents the overall development of residential architecture during the post-war era and contributes to the mid-century modernist character so strongly identified with Palm Springs.”

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