The Lost Mid-Century Moderns in Palm Springs

73110 Grapevine in Palm Desert.  

We have many fine examples of this architectural genre that are “The Lost Mid-Century Moderns” because we can’t connect them with their architect.  These post and beam homes were designed for maximum light, view lines and contact with the desert. Take this home for example.

According to the County Tax Assessor record, it was built in 1957.  A knowledgeable visitor pointed out that the raked stucco exterior was often used by E. Stewart Williams, and the time frame was right.

The Lost Mid-Century Moderns

The Hunt Was On!

Our first effort to find the architect was to contact the Palm Springs Art Museum. “In 2002 Stewart Williams donated mounted photographs of eighteen architectural projects, drawings of twenty-eight residential projects and nineteen commercial/institutional projects. The drawings are the complete personal archive of his work including schools, banks, residences, colleges, and the museum.”

The collection is not online, but it can be viewed by appointment for pre-specified items, selected from the E.S. Williams’ Project List and Drawing List.  These lists identify drawings by client’s name, and seldom by address. On the assumption that the home may have been designed well before it was built, we asked about his 1955-1957 projects. It turns out they have only three residence drawings in that period, Koerner and Kenaston, that we already know, and for a Geierman residence in Laguna Beach.

Perhaps we could match the original owner’s name to the lists. The online tax record shows it was sold by Charles Shelton in in 1989, but his name doesn’t appear on the the list of ESW projects.  It could be useful to know if he was the original owner in any case.

A check with the Riverside County Building and Safety Department found they have Palm Desert permits recorded from 1967 until 1973 when the City was incorporated.

A visit to the Palm Desert Historical Society proved useful. There we found Mr Shelton did appear at the subject home address in a 1965 phone book but not in a 1957 phone book. We also found Mr Shelton was publisher of the Desert Magazine from 1958-1963. The Magazine is online. Warning, it could be addictive.  The Historical Society staff also knew Ann Shelton, daughter of Charles, who was a Palm Desert Real estate agent, who we couldn’t contact as she has retired and moved.

One of the staff checked their records and found the name Owen Hudson connected to the address, but he doesn’t appear on the ESW project list. Mr. Hudson’s name doesn’t appear in the 1957 or 1965 phone directories

They suggested we review The Desert Sun online archive which contains over 7,000 searchable issues from December 1934 to April 1978.

There we found The Desert Sun reported in October 1960 that Owen Hudson drew a permit for a sprinkler system at 73110 Grapevine.  It also reported in June 1962 that the Sheltons’ purchased the Hudson home on Grapevine.

As much as we can tell, Mr Hudson was the original owner, but we have not identified an architect, so it seems we have another lost mid-century modern.










2 Replies to “The Lost Mid-Century Moderns in Palm Springs”

  1. Hello! My name is Kate MacAllister and by chance I just happened to come across this post. I am one of Charles Shelton’s granddaughters (Ann Shelton is my Aunt…my mother is the youngest of Charles and Kay’s children). I have the fondest of memories from the Grapevine house…days upon days swimming in the pool, my grandfather canning olives from the backyard olive trees, picking citrus each morning for fresh squeezed juice, riding our bikes up and down Grapevine. I will forward this article onto my family – I know they’ll love reading it. We had amazing family memories in this house! – Kate

  2. My parents, Charles and Kay Shelton, bought the 73-110 Grapevine house when I was 12. The exterior was rose pink. The structure of the house has changed little, although no privacy wall at the front door existed. Smoke trees dominated the front driveway area as well as beautiful Ocotillo. Bougainvillea shaded the eastern bedrooms. There was a small orchard of 6-8 huge grapefruit trees on the east side of the lot. A lawn surrounded a rectangular pool in the back. My Dad painted the exterior a minty green color and added plantings including Palo Verde trees. The interior is so much more beautiful today. Both the wood ceiling and fireplace stones were painted white. The floors were carpeted. My three sisters and I have tons of fond memories of the house and pool. I had my wedding in the backyard 35 years ago! Cindy Shelton, Pacific Palisades, Ca

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