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April 15, 2011

Last week I was in Borrego Springs, California, a tiny town in the middle of the Anza Borrego desert in San Diego County. A good two hours northeast of San Diego, the town was, and is, a hotspot for mid-century modern design. Tucked in among the Spanish and southwestern architecture is a trove of homes, offices, and clubs that would make any fan of the fabulous 50s drool. Lesser known than storied Palm Springs, Borrego Springs offers all the beauty of the desert without the bustle of the better known vacation spot. I got a cracking tour of the place from Bill Lawrence who runs Borrego Modern and I'll be posting more photos from my trip soon. Here's the first batch to whet your appetite for groovy desert design.

With nary a traffic light in sight, Christmas Circle (a large traffic circle) welcomes visitors into the center of town.
With nary a traffic light in sight, Christmas Circle (a large traffic circle) welcomes visitors into the center of town.
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The main shopping area is an outdoor mall that has all the sun-baked vibes of Californian mid-century design. The big overhangs provide ample shade in the hot summers and the design has a kind of modern-meets-adobe feel. There must be a thousand plazas, s
The main shopping area is an outdoor mall that has all the sun-baked vibes of Californian mid-century design. The big overhangs provide ample shade in the hot summers and the design has a kind of modern-meets-adobe feel. There must be a thousand plazas, schools, and civic spaces in California that have this same, sunny feel.
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These benches shaded by an olive tree very ably capture the modern feel of the place with the bricks echoing the adobe building blocks of the region.
These benches shaded by an olive tree very ably capture the modern feel of the place with the bricks echoing the adobe building blocks of the region.
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What fan of retro design could resist a night at the Hacienda del Sol Motel downtown? You also get a good sense of how near the mountains of the Anza Borrego State Park are. The town is entirely within the bounds of the park.
What fan of retro design could resist a night at the Hacienda del Sol Motel downtown? You also get a good sense of how near the mountains of the Anza Borrego State Park are. The town is entirely within the bounds of the park.
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Here's another mod building downtown with its large glass facade and projecting roof. It looked fairly abandoned when I poked around, but appeared to be an office or business at one point.
Here's another mod building downtown with its large glass facade and projecting roof. It looked fairly abandoned when I poked around, but appeared to be an office or business at one point.
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The Desert Club is not in use now, but back in the 50s it was the heart of the swinging social scene in Borrego Springs. It opened in 1950 and was designed by William Kessling. The pool is now empty, but I can only imagine what it was like to loll there w
The Desert Club is not in use now, but back in the 50s it was the heart of the swinging social scene in Borrego Springs. It opened in 1950 and was designed by William Kessling. The pool is now empty, but I can only imagine what it was like to loll there with the gorgeous mountains looming overhead.
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Here's a glimpse of the faded glory of the Dick Zerbe-designed bar. Also dig the expanse of glass that keeps the big ballroom perpetually engaged with the desert.
Here's a glimpse of the faded glory of the Dick Zerbe-designed bar. Also dig the expanse of glass that keeps the big ballroom perpetually engaged with the desert.
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When Hollywood celebs were burned out by Palm Springs they'd often zip down to Borrego. The Palms at Indian Head is just the hotel they'd stay at, too. In the lobby are photos are Bing Crosby and the like. They also say that Sinatra and Monroe stayed here
When Hollywood celebs were burned out by Palm Springs they'd often zip down to Borrego. The Palms at Indian Head is just the hotel they'd stay at, too. In the lobby are photos are Bing Crosby and the like. They also say that Sinatra and Monroe stayed here too. It was bought and fixed up by the current owners in 1993.
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I could not get over the pool at the Palms. It's the biggest one in town and that Palms logo at the bottom is classy as can be.
I could not get over the pool at the Palms. It's the biggest one in town and that Palms logo at the bottom is classy as can be.
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Here are the set of stairs you see when you enter the hotel. Hard to imagine a better set of mid-century bones. Unfortunately the architect is not known.
Here are the set of stairs you see when you enter the hotel. Hard to imagine a better set of mid-century bones. Unfortunately the architect is not known.
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Occasionally when driving around town you see these massive sculptures in the middle-distance. They're of the present day and ancient fauna of the region, done by sculptor Ricardo Breceda.
Occasionally when driving around town you see these massive sculptures in the middle-distance. They're of the present day and ancient fauna of the region, done by sculptor Ricardo Breceda.
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For a bit of real fauna, I couldn't help myself when I saw this real live roadrunner. He was fast, but I got a picture from the car.
For a bit of real fauna, I couldn't help myself when I saw this real live roadrunner. He was fast, but I got a picture from the car.
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Finally, here's a look at Lawrence's Fairway cottage designed by Dick Zerbe. It's at the De Anza Country Club and was originally used as temporary housing for folk who were considering buying a house at the Club.<br /><br /><p><em><strong>Don't miss a wor
Finally, here's a look at Lawrence's Fairway cottage designed by Dick Zerbe. It's at the De Anza Country Club and was originally used as temporary housing for folk who were considering buying a house at the Club.

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With nary a traffic light in sight, Christmas Circle (a large traffic circle) welcomes visitors into the center of town.
With nary a traffic light in sight, Christmas Circle (a large traffic circle) welcomes visitors into the center of town.

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