It’s August and that means Elvis Week is upon us. Perhaps that’s why I was intrigued when I heard recently that the two properties in Palm Springs, California, in which Elvis Presley once lived are currently in transition.
These dwellings, one of which is billed as “Elvis’ Honeymoon Hideaway” and the other as “Graceland West,” are both iconic examples of mid-twentieth-century Southwestern architecture. The former home is for sale for top dollar (no surprise), and while the latter was also for sale this past spring, it’s now off the market while the current owners decide whether to renovate or sell it “as is.”
Through the past decades, the owners of each of these properties have at one time or another marketed “Elvis tours” for the benefit of the King’s millions of fans who happened to pass through Palm Springs. Why not? This famous resort town is a veritable museum of an elegant yet informal style called “desert modernism,” developed by enterprising architects after World War II, who designed unique residences that capitalized on the dramatic, natural landscape of the Coachella Valley and Santa Rosa Mountains. Following their blueprints, builders constructed glass-walled homes that blurred the boundaries between outdoors and indoors.
Even though as far back as the late 1920s and early 1930s, Palm Springs had been a favorite getaway for movie actors, moguls, and socialites, over time it lost its luster and faded when developers and vacationers moved to nearby communities such as Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. But apparently this famous city is back with a vengeance. An article in The New York Times this past June, titled “The Desert in Demand,” labeled it a Palm Springs renaissance evidenced by a real-estate market on the rebound, rumors of house-hunting movie stars (Leonardo DiCaprio has bought there recently and Anne Hathaway is looking), new hotels, restaurants and galleries cropping up, and some big-ticket properties changing hands. In addition, part of this boom can be attributed to increased interest from the design world in Palm Springs’ “space age” architecture.
Accordingly, it seems a perfect time for 1350 Ladera Circle, the home Elvis rented in 1966 (paying $21,000 for a one-year rental), to come up for sale for $9.5 million. He and Priscilla spent a bit of their honeymoon there in May of 1967. Furthermore, this is a remarkable property in its own right.
The Ladera Circle house looks a bit like a UFO, and has been described as “modernist architecture at its exuberant best.” In fact, back in 1962, the property was featured in Look magazine as “The House of Tomorrow.”
Built by the prominent Palm Springs developer Robert Alexander in 1960, this four-bedroom, five-bath, 5,000-square-foot home was designed in four perfect circles, on three levels, and incorporates a mixture of glass and stonework. It is located in the Las Palmas neighborhood of Palm Springs.
The master bedroom suite where Elvis and Priscilla spent their honeymoon offers panoramic views, and there are intriguing Art Deco furnishings throughout, while the grounds include a swimming pool, a tennis court, and a fruit orchard.
Interestingly, however, the Presleys did not stay long enough at Ladera Circle to get the best out of the home. They eloped on May 1, 1967, in Frank Sinatra’s loaned Lear jet. The ceremony at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas lasted just eight minutes, and after the bride and groom returned to Palm Springs they only stayed three days before flying back to Memphis and Graceland.
When I read that Josh and Matthew Altman of Hilton & Hyland, luxury real-estate brokers in Beverly Hills, are the listing agents for the house, I immediately called my friend, former Memphian Brenda Chandler Cooke, who works for this esteemed company. She put me in touch with the Altmans. “Palm Springs is a great niche area to invest in right now,” explains Josh Altman, “and the Elvis honeymoon house is a particularly good investment because of the classic mid-century architecture that the area is known for.” Of course it also goes without saying that the star power of the Presley provenance should help with the property’s sale!
With Palm Springs’ amazing desert air, glorious year-round sunshine, spectacular views, rejuvenated amenities, not to mention movie stars as neighbors and of course the King’s karma, either of these two houses would surely make a wonderful retirement home. Perhaps some lucky person from Memphis will step up to the plate?
Elvis’ other Palm Springs home, a property known as “Graceland West,” was built in 1946 and is located at 845 West Chino Canyon Road in Palm Springs. After a long stint on the tourist-tour circuit, Graceland West was recently on the market for $3.95 million. It was designed by renowned Swiss architect Albert Frey, often considered the father of “desert modernism,” who had once worked with pioneering modern architect Le Corbusier. Elvis purchased the estate in 1970 for $105,000, and owned the 5,040-square-foot home for seven years, notably recording nine songs there, including “Sweet Angeline,” “Are You Sincere?,” “Blue Spanish Eyes,” and “I Miss You.” Daughter Lisa Marie was two years old when the family moved in, although they usually only spent three months a year there. Though Elvis and Priscilla lived together for a time in the house, Graceland West is more closely associated with Elvis’ bachelor days after his 1973 divorce.
His Palm Springs escapades after the divorce are legendary. During those years, Elvis added an entertainment room, a personal bedroom suite, and a sauna, and built a roof over the 16-person jacuzzi to deter photographers in helicopters from taking photos. Elvis spent his last birthday at the estate on January 7, 1977.
Realtors Tracey Wrubleski Meeks and Eric Meeks, author of The Best Guide Ever to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes, are with Coldwell Banker in Palm Desert, California, and had the listing for the home when it was first offered for sale early last year. Before Elvis, the home was owned by the Jergens family (of hand-lotion fame) and Ray Kroc (of McDonald’s fame) and later by musician Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons. Located in the very exclusive neighborhood of Little Tuscany, Graceland West is built on an elevated lot above the average home in town, and features fantastic views. It does require, however, a large dose of TLC and awaits restoration to its former glory.
Eric Meeks tells me that last March, the home was foreclosed upon by a Texas-based company which held the note on the property and has since been taken off the market. To date, he says, they have been acquiring estimates to improve the home while considering whether or not to sell it in “as is” condition or with certain renovations completed. It is not currently on the market, according to Meeks, “although if there are any interested parties the owners will consider offers.”
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The dramatic, iconic modernist Ladera Circle estate is designed in 4 perfect circles which means there’s not a square room in the place.
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The famous circular living room with its built-in 64-foot curved sofa has surely been the scene of many parties over the past 54 years.
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A view of the back pool area at dusk.
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The pool is a refreshing oasis in the bright Palm Springs sunshine.
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An Elvis cutout holds sway in the Ladera Circle home’s large living room which represents indoor/outdoor living at its mid-century-modern best.
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The home’s stylish cream-colored round kitchen is punctuated with charcoal stools.
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