The Miles C. Bates House – The Fog of War?

Walter S. White (1917-2002)
Miles C. Bates house, Palm Desert, CA, 1954-5.
Images courtesy of Architecture and Design Collection, Art, Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara.
© UC Regents.

The Desert Sun earlier this month reported a decision by City Council, on advice of City Staff, to formally object to the Historical Society of Palm Desert (HSPD) submission for the nomination of the Miles C. Bates House to the National Register of Historic Places. The general concern was that the City would lose statutory control of the property to the federal designation.

A specific concern was heard that a national designation would tie the hands of the City should a future owner decide the structure prevented the land’s highest and best use, and wish it demolished. This is not the case. According to 36CFR1.60.2, “Listing of private property on the National Register does not prohibit under Federal law or regulation any actions which may otherwise be taken by the property owner with respect to the property.”  If it is an income producing property that has received federal tax preservation incentives, other rules apply. Continue reading “The Miles C. Bates House – The Fog of War?”

The Miles Bates House in Palm Desert  –  More Progress

Following up on our last newsletter, the Historical Society of Palm Desert did raise money in a very short time to have this unique structure nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.  Contributions large and small were received from across the country, showing strong support for historical property preservation.  Big donors included the Board of Modernism Week.

Lawyers Title graciously contributed to the application by providing the required Chain of Title back to 1952.

A professionally drafted application is now in the hands of the  California State Historic Preservation Officer.  Learn more here.  The SHPO is conducting a thorough review of the application for merit and accuracy.  If it meets requirements the SHPO will nominate it to the National Historic Register.  Hopefully it will be so designated this year.

Here is a short excerpt from the application showing the level of and care to detail, replete with a history of ownership, building permits, original and modern drawings and photographs. Continue reading “The Miles Bates House in Palm Desert  –  More Progress”

The Miles Bates House –  A Progress Report

New Publicity

Our last newsletter covered the state of this home and the visit by aficionados to view it, organized by the City and the Historical Society of Palm Desert.

It was Front Page news on June 9th in The Desert Sun, reporting the visit by Palm Desert City Councilors of June 7th.  The article will help popularize the rescue with the headline “Save the Wave”.

Miles Bates House Palm Desert
Miles Bates House Palm Desert


It reports the Historical Society of Palm Desert’s initiative to raise funds to have the house designated a national historic landmark.  According to Prof. Welter of UC Santa Barbara, it is “a rare if not sole survivor that recalls the architectural origins of Palm Desert”   The architect Walter S. White designed at least 48 homes in Palm Desert. This, the Bates home and those would be of great interest to participants of Modernism Week.

It also reports the downside – it could be purchased and demolished so the land could be used for apartment buildings.  The City has no control of what happens to it before or after it is sold as it is not their property, and they do not have the funds to contribute toward designation or restoration. Continue reading “The Miles Bates House –  A Progress Report”

Rescuing the Miles Bates House – A Conundrum

Since our last newsletter with Prof. Volker Welter’s commentary on the Miles Bates house (1955) , we were fortunate to participate in a tour of it arranged with the City by Merilee Colton of the Palm Desert Historical Society.  Fearing the worst, we were among about twenty, from all points in Southern California, including City staff, able to take advantage of this opportunity last Thursday. Here is the exterior, as original, and as today with two boxy additions on the front in place of the gracefully curved free-standing wall.

Photo Courtesy of the Art, Design and Architecture Museum,
UC Santa Barbara
Existing Condition Photos Courtesy of James Schnepf 2017

Continue reading “Rescuing the Miles Bates House – A Conundrum”

Iconic Miles Bates house in Palm Desert in Danger of Destruction

Miles Bates House in Palm Desert

Miles Bates House in Palm Desert

City of Palm Desert May Allow Destruction of an Iconic Walter S White

Merilee Colton of the Palm Desert Historical Society advised us that the Walter S White wave-roof home built for Miles Bates in 1954-55, on Santa Rosa Way in Palm Desert is in danger of demolition. The City of Palm Desert, in preparation of disposing of its ownership has had it appraised at a value not much more that its land. The condition of this home is reportedly poor, but restorable. The concern is that the land will be sold without regard to the building and it will be torn down for new construction.

We contacted Professor Volker M. Welter, who has published White’s work, of UC Santa Barbara that holds his archive.  Professor Welter gave a presentation on White and his work at Modernism Week, 2016

Here are excerpts from his reply to Ms. Colton, also addressed to us.  Continue reading “Iconic Miles Bates house in Palm Desert in Danger of Destruction”

Modernism Week Discovery: Walter S White

Walter S White – Modernism Week Discoveries

73271 Buckboard Trail, Palm Desert Photo George Gutenberg
Photo George Gutenberg

As we suit up for MW 2017 to learn more about this genre, it might be good to recall that we’ve learned a lot in the past.

One such discovery at MW 2016 was the little-known Mid-Century Modern architect Walter S White who did memorable structures from Palm Springs to Indio, as well as work in Colorado and Los Angeles. He was first introduced to us in a blog by Professor Volker M. Welter, in 2015, who later did a lecture on the architect at MW 2016.

Professor Welter also authored “Projects and Inventions in Architecture”, published by the Art, Design and Architecture, UCSB.  This book provides a thorough review of his work and working life with details, background, drawings, locations and photographs. It can be ordered here. Thus the architect has been moved from being little known to well recognized.

Clicking here will show a map developed by Prof.  Welter showing his known and suspected projects. Continue reading “Modernism Week Discovery: Walter S White”

Walter S. White, One of the Great Palm Springs Area Architects

Photo: George Gutenberg

Drawings for the Johnson-Hebert Residence by Walter S. White (1917-2002) date to early 1958.  By that time, White had perfected his ideas for mid-twentieth century modern desert residences.  Typically, he first conceived a roof for without shade, life in the desert was unbearable.  Underneath he, second, placed space-defining walls, usually not more than two per room and sometimes extending beyond the roof line in order to mark outdoor living spaces.  Third, the remaining sides of the rooms White enclosed with large expanses of glass.

Walter S. White (1917-2002), Paulette Johnson house, Palm Desert, CA, 1958, preliminary design showing the unrealized hypar roof. Image courtesy of Architecture and Design Collection, Art Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara. © UC Regents.
Walter S. White (1917-2002), Paulette Johnson house, Palm Desert, CA, 1958, preliminary design showing the unrealized hypar roof.
Image courtesy of Architecture and Design Collection, Art Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara. © UC Regents.

White liked to experiment with the roofs.  Curved shapes were a favorite of his; the Bates Residence (1954) in Palm Desert features a wave-like roof, a simple concave curve graces the Alexander Residence (1955) in Palm Springs.  By the later 1950s, White was fascinated by hyperbolic paraboloid (hypar) shapes.  Formed like a saddle, or a Pringle potato chip, these roofs were self-supporting and offered maximum freedom for the interior arrangements. Continue reading “Walter S. White, One of the Great Palm Springs Area Architects”

All About Mid-Century Modern

What is Mid-Century Modern?

Mid-Century modern is an architectural, interior and product design form that generally describes mid-20th century development in modern design, architecture and urban development from roughly 1933 to the late 1960s (

The term, coined by Cara Greenberg for her book, Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s, published in 1983 by Random House, is now recognized by scholars and museums worldwide as a significant design movement.

What is Modernism?

Before World War II, architecture and furniture styles emphasized hand craftsmanship — ornate detail and traditional materials like dark, heavy woods.  However, decades earlier, the visual arts, painting and sculpture had already been influenced  by a movement called “modernism” with a visual emphasis on clean lines, contrast, elevation and innovative style and form.

French Impressionists, such as Matisse, Picasso, and symbolists in literature, Ezra Pound, T.S. Elliott, were among the early modernist artists and writers.

Modernism “questions the axioms of the previous age,” and is a cultural movement of changes in Western society beginning in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  It reflects  a trend of thought that human beings can create, improve and reshape the environment through practical experimentation, scientific knowledge and technology.   Along with new artistic and philosophical trends, social, political and economic were forces at work – industrialization (

Post War Life Style

Continue reading “All About Mid-Century Modern”

Just Listed: A Walter White Architectural Gem in South Palm Desert

Welcome to Ralph Haverkate’s Real Estate Blog, Specializing in Mid-Century Modern Homes

Just Listed:  Architectural Gem in South Palm Desert by California Modern Inventor, Industrial Designer and Architect Walter White

During the 1950s and 60s when many architects and developers first came to the desert, the area’s unique terrain, climate and rugged beauty provided exciting challenges as well as new vision for a generation of modernist thinkers.  Some gained fame and fortune in the desert; their many contributions are clearly visible in tract and custom developments, public and community projects throughout the area.

Others, such as California Modernist Walter S. White, created only a few precious gems that are still quietly tucked away in quality neighborhoods, just beginning to receive the recognition they deserve.

One of White’s unique homes, built in 1958 in the Silver Spur residential enclave at 73221 Buckboard Trail, overlooking Palm Desert, is now on the market.

Architectural block, glass walls that create a compelling indoor/outdoor relationship, interior floating walls and clerestory windows are a Walter White signature.  The home’s authentic mosaic bath tiles and pebble stone entry have been lovingly restored.  The newer pebble tech salt-water pool and spa are surrounded by spacious lawns, open patio areas and custom decorative block screen. Continue reading “Just Listed: A Walter White Architectural Gem in South Palm Desert”

Real Estate: Buy Low, Sell High

In the Palm Springs area, the only homes that are selling are at 30-50% discounts.  Many would-be home buyers seem to be holding back in fear (or hope) that prices will fall some more.  If you believe in Buy Low you should be wary of trying to buy at the bottom – that is very hard to do.  It’s better to get most of the benefit of the low, than to miss it altogether.  Median prices were actually lower last year than now.

It does look as if prices may fall again, but I may be wrong .  In the opinion of some, we saw prices rise last year due to various government stimulus programs, and they could rise again if private investment increases.  We have seen unemployment increase and that will increase the number of foreclosures.  The impact of new foreclosures should be minimal because we have seen the banks meter them onto the market about as fast as they are selling, which has kept prices stable.

Could a meaningful drop of 20% or more still happen?  If a Mid-Century Modern home was $500,000 at the peak, it is possibly worth around $300,000 now (a 40% drop).  I don’t believe it can go down to $200,000 (down 60%).  Could it go down 15% from $300,000 to $255,000?  It is possible, but a slight market improvement could keep the price steady or slightly increase it, as happened over the last year.  Meanwhile the buyer is still looking and we are getting closer to the time when prices will definitely increase.

Some sellers are waiting too.  If they need to sell, there isn’t much point in waiting for the return to high prices.  That won’t happen for many years.  They are likely better off selling now to start a new financial or housing base rather than dealing with an uncertain future.

For both Buyers and Sellers, there is a financial risk of doing nothing, and you may miss the chance of finding that perfect Kreisel Alexander or Walter S. White.

Wayne Longman