On September 3, 2014 the historic Spa Bath House and colonnade was demolished by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians before a crowd of stunned onlookers. As of September 3, 2014 a total of 1,024 letters supporting the rehabilitation of Spa Hotel complex had been sent to Tribal Council Chair Jeff Grubbe. To see the letter click here. Later that evening PSPF board member Gary Johns made eloquent public comment before the Palm Springs city council decrying the demolition of the Spa Hotel colonnade. Johns compared the colonnade’s demolition to the “disastrous loss” of Richard Neutra’s Maslon House in nearby Rancho Mirage in 2002.
In the September 2014 issue of Desert Magazine, PSPF board advisor Tracy Conrad authored an article entitled “Spa Hotel: Swellegance.” Conrad’s article, which features rare vintage photographs of the Spa Hotel complex, concludes with the insightful observation: “Alterations and additions made to the buildings over the years since have covered up their sublime midcentury heritage. Beneath remains an incomparable work of modern architecture that has immense allure half a century later.” To read the article click here.
On August 13, 2014 the Palm Springs Modernism Committee delivered a “detailed marketing plan and tax credit package” to the tribe which consisted of an explanation of the potential for historic tax credits and a copy of the marketing plan produced by the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Hotel Valley Ho is a hotel of similar vintage and size to the Spa Hotel complex. To read the PSModCom package click here.
On August 10, 2014 the Desert Sun newspaper published a “Valley Voice” editorial by singer-actress Nancy Sinatra. The well-received editorial opined that, “Architects such as Cody, Williams, Frey, Wexler and many others put their indelible stamp on our neighborhoods. As our city grew, so did our reputation for beautiful midcentury iconic buildings and homes. The preservation and sometimes the rehabilitation of those buildings and neighborhoods have transformed Palm Springs into a global destination in recent years. This is a wonderful blessing for our city and for us. My hope is that we can continue to enjoy and celebrate these places forever.” To read Ms. Sinatra’s entire editorial click here.
On August 5, 2014 the “Save the Spa” online letter writing campaign asking the tribe to preserve and rehabilitate the Spa Hotel complex collected its 1,000th signature.
On August 4, 2014 PSPF sent a letter to the White House making an appeal to First Lady Michelle Obama (in her capacity as the Honorary Chair of the “Preserve America” program) for “any efforts [she] might make on behalf of this important advocacy.” Copies of the PSPF letter were sent to senior administration officials in the Department of the Interior, California’s national and state elected leadership, and to national and state preservation organizations. To read the PSPF cover letter click here.
On July 28, 2014 PSPF board member Gary Johns was a guest on radio station KPTR AM 1450 for host Steve Kelly’s “Kelly’s Corner.” The show discussed the proposed demolition of the Spa Hotel complex. Johns made a compelling case for the rehabilitation of the architecturally important complex and asked that the tribal leaders embrace a more “community-oriented” vision for the site.
On July 24, 2014 the Desert Sun newspaper featured an article entitled “Report: Demolishing Hotel Bad for Environment.” The article summarized the salient points of the sustainability report provided to the tribe on July 18, 2014.
On July 19, 2914 PSPF board members Gary Johns and Jim Harlan provided “Save the Spa” signs to various businesses in the city’s Uptown Design District. The large majority of business owners enthusiastically applauded and prominently posted the signs in their respective businesses.
On July 18, 2014 PSPF delivered to Tribal Council Chair Jeff Grubbe a study entitled Sustainability Assessment of the Palm Springs Spa Resort Hotel. The study, conducted by Ecotype Consulting (Redlands, CA), was commissioned by PSPF prior to the July 8th closing of the Spa Hotel complex. Accordingly, Ecotype Consulting was able to visit the Spa Hotel site before it was shuttered and record a number of important metrics. In a cover letter to the Tribal Chair, PSPF’s letter asserted that the study “leads one to the inescapable conclusion that the demolition of the Spa Hotel complex is bad for the environment and that the very idea of a “green” demolition is fundamentally flawed.” Further, the PSPF letter opined that, “While we have the utmost respect for the Tribe’s planning staff, sometimes divergent views that provide new information can lead to better conclusions.” To read the PSPF cover letter click here.
On July 16, 2014 singer-actress Ms. Nancy Sinatra sent a personal letter to Tribal Council Chair Jeff Grubbe. In her letter Ms. Sinatra says, “The current and recent owners of my father’s home [Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate] have invested in its restoration, returning it to its near original condition. They had faith in the future of Palm Springs and understood that cultural tourism is an important, emerging component of our local economy. The Spa Hotel complex (including my favorite portion, the “Colonnade”) needs a similar investment in restoration so that future generations of Palm Springs residents and tourists can enjoy the architecture of William Cody and Wexler & Harrison.” Ms. Sinatra also mentions PSPF’s on-line “Save the Spa” letter campaign. To read Ms. Sinatra’s letter click here.
On July 14, 2014 the Desert Sun newspaper reported on the early success of PSPF’s “Save the Spa” letter-writing campaign to the tribe.
On July 12, 2014 the Desert Sun newspaper published a “Valley Voice” editorial by PSPF board member Barbara Marshall. The editorial, which received an overwhelmingly positive response, challenged the tribal council “to embrace a community-oriented vision by preserving and investing in the rehabilitation of the Spa Hotel complex.” Read the Valley Voice Editorial
On the evening of July 11, 2014 PSPF kicked-off an on-line letter-writing campaign to persuade the tribe to reconsider their demolition plans. In the first hour of the campaign 114 letters were electronically signed and sent to the tribe. By the following Monday morning (July 14th) that number had climbed to 646. In part, the advocacy letter asks Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Tribal Council Chairman “to reconsider the Tribe’s proposed demolition of the Spa Hotel & Spa Bath House,” and further that the tribe support “the community’s efforts to preserve and rehabilitate this important architectural and cultural resource.”
On July 9, 2014 PSPF informed the membership of the results of the July 8, 2014 meeting with tribal planning representatives. Notably, the advocacy email announced the start of a “more public” campaign regarding the Spa Hotel complex.
On July 8, 2014 PSPF board members Erik Rosenow, Susan Secoy-Jensen, Gary Johns and Ron Marshall met with tribal planning representatives (and tribal council Vice Chairman Larry Olinger) to discuss the proposed demolition of the Spa Hotel complex (William Cody and Wexler & Harrison, 1959-1962). Also attending the meeting were representatives from the Palm Springs Modern Committee (PSModCom) and the Palm Springs Historical Society (PSHS). The meeting, which had been requested by PSPF in early June, resulted in a far-ranging discussion which focused on the intrinsic cultural and economic value of the Spa Hotel complex. It was repeatedly emphasized to the tribe that the 2,000-plus PSPF membership fervently believes the Spa Hotel complex should be preserved and celebrated, not demolished and disposed of. Specific comments to the tribe included PSPF representatives talking about the inherent “greenness” of preserving the building and PSModCom representatives talking about tax credit opportunities. The PSHS representative provided a small collection of vintage historical items and photographs of the Spa Hotel complex. At the conclusion of the meeting the tribal representatives said that they “welcomed” any input from the PSPF membership and the public at-large.
On June 24, 2014 PSPF sent out an advocacy email informing the membership of the proposed demolition of the Spa Hotel complex and apprising them of the scheduled July 8, 2014 meeting with tribal representatives.
On June 19, 2014 during a joint meeting with the Palm Springs city council, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians tribal council chairman Jeff Grubbe announced the “tear-down” of the Spa Hotel complex (1959-62, William Cody and Wexler & Harrison). Tribal leaders said the Spa Hotel’s scheduled closure on July 8th would be followed by a “six to nine month” structural evaluation (for hazardous materials, etc.) of the complex. The results of that evaluation “may” impact timelines but later mention was made of the “entire process” being a “15-18 month” “green” tear-down. Although this important joint session (held at the Convention Center) was not televised, PSPF recorded the relevant portions of the meeting. During the discussions specific mention was made of the tribal staff’s scheduled July 8th meeting with PSPF and other local preservation organizations (the day the hotel closes). The tribe asserted that they currently “don’t have a plan in place yet” for the site.
On June 3, 2014 PSPF sent a letter to ACBCI Tribal Chairman Jeff Grubbe asking for a meeting to discuss the concepts and points raised in PSPF’s letter of May 8, 2014. To read the PSPF letter click here.
On May 8, 2014 PSPF sent a letter to ACBCI Tribal Chairman Jeff Grubbe which stated in part, “We were encouraged by an article in the May 6, 2014 issue of the Desert Sun newspaper about the Spa Hotel complex, wherein you were quoted that it was the tribe’s intent to “preserve this key landmark”….Of course it is the foundation’s view that the Spa Hotel itself is an integral part of that landmark–not to mention an important part of the history and legacy of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the city of Palm Springs.” The PSPF letter attached the 7-page information sheet (slightly updated) that was previously provided in the joint letter sent to the tribe on May 30, 2008. The PSPF letter also asked that Tribal Chairman Grubbe be “transparent” concerning the tribe’s plans for the Spa Hotel complex. Read the PDPF Letter and 7-page Information Sheet
Despite the March 28, 2010 assertion in the Desert Sun newspaper that the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians “plans to eventually demolish” the William Cody-designed Spa Hotel, on March 30th the tribe’s Chief Planning and Development Officer, Mr. Tom Davis, assured PSPF President Ron Marshall that pending the completion of a formal environmental review no decision on the future of the Spa Hotel has been made. Further, with regard to the specific issue of demolition, Mr. Davis reasserted that the “Tribal Council does not hold that position or any other” at this time.
On May 30, 2008 PSPF and a coalition of preservation organizations and interested parties sent a letter to Tribal Chairman Milanovich. The letter attached a 7-page information sheet, produced by PSPF member Ron Marshall, which contained “a consolidated set of recommendations regarding the potential for renovation and restoration of the internationally-renowned Palm Springs Spa and Hotel.” The signatories to the letter suggested that the 7-page attachment be included in any Request for Proposal (RFP) for the development of the Spa Hotel site. While the tribe considers our and other external recommendations we have been asked not to make our detailed recommendations publicly available. To read the joint letter click here.
On March 20, 2008 ACBCI representatives met with PSPF President William Kopelk and PSPF board members Doug Hudson and Ron Marshall to discuss the tribe’s plans for the colonnade. At the meeting, which was cordial and collegial, the coalition of preservation organizations offered to send the tribe a letter outlining the historic and cultural importance of the entire Spa Hotel complex to include recommendations regarding the hotel’s restoration.
On January 17, 2008 the ACBCI agreed to meet with PSPF and other interested parties. In their response the tribe’s Chief Planning & Development Officer, Mr. Thomas J. Davis stated, “Please be assured that the Tribal Council presently has no plans to demolish the colonnade at the entry to the existing Spa Resort Casino Spa. Although the current ‘Notice of Intent’ to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Spa Resort Casino Master Plan considers the ‘demolition’ of the hotel, it does not specifically address the colonnade, and an Environmental Review document, in itself, does not cause any action, but merely analyzes potential actions and their effects.”
On January 5, 2008 PSPF President William Kopelk and the heads of other local preservation organizations, expressed their concerns about an architectural rendering that appeared in the October 2007 issue of Palm Springs Life magazine. The rendering showed a proposed building in place of the Spa Bath House colonnade designed by architect William Cody and the firm of Wexler & Harrison. The letter also requested a meeting with representatives of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (ACBCI). To read the joint letter click here. Read the ACBCI Response
IN THE MEDIA
November 26, 2014, Desert Sun (Palm Springs Spa Hotel Complex)
September 5, 2014, Desert Sun (Palm Springs Spa Hotel Complex)
September 4, 2014, Desert Sun (Palm Springs Spa Hotel Complex)
July 24, 2014, Desert Sun (Palm Springs Spa Hotel Complex)
July 14, 2014, Desert Sun (Palm Springs Spa Hotel Complex)
June 28, 2014, Desert Sun (Palm Springs Spa Hotel Complex)