Three city properties recommended for historic recognition following Preservation Board meeting

Two single-family homes are being considered for Class 1 designation and a 30-unit condominium complex is up for historic district designation. The issue will next go before the Palm Springs City Council.
The Country Club Estates in South Palm Springs could receive historic district status if a recommendation by the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board is approved by the City Council.

The Palm Springs Historic Site Preservation Board (HSPB) voted this week to recommend that the City Council consider three new properties for historic designation after reviewing reports that include detailed histories provided by the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation (PSPF).

The board recommended that two single-family homes — the Blankenhorn/Gilmore residence located in Smoke Tree Ranch and the Koerner residence in the Deepwell Estates neighborhood — be designated as Class 1 historic resources. The board also voted to recommend that the third property, Country Club Estates on South Camino Real and East La Verne Way, be designated as a historic district.

Local reporting and journalism you can count on.

Subscribe to The Palm Springs Post

The designation is important for many reasons. Aside from a potential tax break for property owners of Class 1 structures, buildings and districts with these designations have to follow different rules and owners may have to apply for specific permits before making minor or major changes to their property. 

Reports reviewed Tuesday evening include materials from the PSPF, which agreed to sponsor the nominations and then produced painstaking reports full of dozens historical images, documents, and discussion that outline reasons why the properties should be singled out for designation.

Each property must meet certain conditions and criteria for designation and each property undergoes a site visit by staff and board members for evaluation. 

In the case of the Blankenhorn/Gilmore residence (read the documentation here), staff noted that it was one of the first private homes built in the Smoke Tree Ranch community, and set the standard of the homes to come with its unique rambling ranch style. Architect Garrett Van Pelt, Jr. designed the home in 1935 for the original owner and noted architect Albert Frey worked on the house from 1947 to 1990.

The board voted unanimously to recommend designation for the Blankenhorn/Gilmore residence. Several public commenters spoke in support of the decision, including neighbors living to the north of the property.

David Pritchard and his husband told the board, “We’re very happy and supportive of this designation. We’re very appreciative of the effort that [the owner] has put into this residence in making sure that it’s kept in its historic form.”

The Koerner residence (read the documentation here) was designed by renowned architect E. Stewart Williams in 1955 and the surrounding landscape was designed by landscape architects Garrett Eckbo and Francis H. Dean. Williams is one of the most influential architects of the time, known for bringing many local landmarks to life, including the Palm Springs Art Museum.

The current owners, David and Katherine Wright, bought the property in 2018 and restored the site to its original 1955 floor plan by removing any additions made in the 1970s. Board members called it a wonderful property, although some weren’t happy with the large hedge that was put up to obscure the front of the building.

“Up until a few years ago, you could see the entire house from the street,” said Vice Chair Jade Nelson. “I know there was a little bit of an outcry among the local conservation community when the restoration was complete and they put up a hedge to hide it all.”

The Koerner residence, in the Deepwell Estates neighborhood, as seen in the 1950s.

Nelson added that a nearby historical house also obscured their property.

“This is becoming a problem,” he said. “In the post-pandemic world everyone wants to privatize everything. But historic sites should be visible as much as possible, especially if that’s the way it was in a historical context.”

The final property, Country Club Estates (read the documentation here), is a condominium complex made up of nine buildings and 30 units, designed by architect A. Quincy Jones in 1965. Locally, Jones is known for designing Sunnylands, but he is also credited with the design of about 5,000 buildings including structures throughout Los Angeles and the Southwest.

The board unanimously approved the property for a designation recommendation, but they are requesting a more comprehensive design guideline be submitted by the complex’s homeowner’s association prior to final approval by the city council. 

A resident of the condo complex and realtor for the development, Frank Bruno, spoke at the meeting in favor of the designation.

“Beyond what is architecturally significant about the complex, I have seen and heard thousands of opinions about the complex through showings, open houses, and Modernism Weeks, and I want to relate to the board that there is such an enthusiasm and joy for this complex,” he said. “I have sold historic properties in Palm Springs and Los Angeles and I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”


Sign up for news updates.

Receive vital news about our city in your inbox for free every day.

100% local.

The Post was founded by local residents who saw gaps in existing news coverage and believed our community deserved better.

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top