"This little book is designed to … invite people of the right kind—not too many—to a region that is meant for the discerning few… ” Early promotional brochure written and distributed by Palm Springs booster, J. Smeaton Chase, promoting the area as the destination for the wealthy and privileged. (Our Araby: Palm Springs and the Garden of the Sun. 1920)
Though originally pitching itself as a place of "cure" for the unwell during the 1920s the village of Palm Springs aggressively positioned itself as the fashionable West Coast destination for the well-heeled traveler. National newspapers and life-style magazines contributed to Palm Spring’s aura of exclusivity by publishing photos of relaxing Los Angeles socialites and popular movie stars engaged in healthy outdoor-living activities like horseback riding, hiking, swimming and golf. To the public the Palm Springs vacation now became synonymous with fitness, leisure and affluence.
Palm Springs’ businesses now worried that uncontrolled growth would destroy the very thing they had carefully crafted. (Pacific Historical Review. February 2004) City officials watched with alarm as floods of want-to-be residents overwhelmed the town’s infrastructure with scores of hotels, apartments and single-family dwellings in an architectural hodge podge. The Chamber of Commerce commissioned a study by California urban expert C. H. Cheney. His report on recent Palm Springs construction trends reassured the Chamber. Mr. Chaney found "A very high average of architectural merit in the residences and hotels…Here are hotels and houses soundly and comfortable built for the climate by McNeal, Swasey, Roy Kelley, Paul Williams and other architects enough to form a strong architectural jury.” (California Arts & Architecture. May 1929) Though early in his career, Paul R. Williams’ recently completed The Mira Monte Hotel Apartment (1928) on E. Ramon Road might have persuaded Chaney to include the young man on his list of important Palm Springs architects.
The Mira Monte is one of four known commercial projects Paul Williams designed in Palm Springs before 1930. Ralph Pomeroy, the investor/owner, contacted Williams after purchasing property in the Vista Santa Rosa subdivision. Envisioned as an area for year-round, working-class residents, lots were soon bought by wealthy seasonal visitors and the neighborhood filled with an eclectic mix of home styles. Pomeroy’s vision for The Mira Monte was firm, targeting the chic traveller and called for a sophisticated architect. (City of Palm Springs Citywide Historic Context. 2015) Though early in his career Paul Williams had the ability and experience to satisfy Pomeroy.
To attract potential upscale seasonal clientale, Pomeroy required Williams to create a building suited to the climate and landscape, historically familiar but able to accomodate both the short-term tourist with hotel-resort atmosphere or the seasonal visitor with an efficiency apartment. In Williams’ final plan, all The Mira Monte’s rooms or apartments were arrayed around a large private courtyard. Each room had large windows with high ceilings to cool the space at night and spectacular views of desert landscape or mountains. The custom furnishings inspired by Iberian castles were understated but comfortably substantial. (image 4) An impressive covered front porch welcomed arriving visitors and provided guests with an informal gathering place to see and be seen while safely out of the hot sun.
The Mira Monte was designed to remind guests of old Palm Springs. Williams used radical construction methods and modern materials to imitate the traditional adobe building techniques associated with the desert area. Specifying “stone tile” or hollow concrete bricks reinforced with steel rods, Williams mimicked and expanded on the local historic form to create a “thoroughly modern structural product… which immediately recalled the old adobe houses of early California settlers.” (Architecture. February, 1931) The result was an historic look with the feel and comfort of a modern facility catering to the discerning visitor. Williams included design features familiar to his California residential clients including custom iron work lanterns, sundecks, private patios and fireplaces. Opening his resort in 1928, Pomeroy proudly advertised organized activities for guests including: riding, badminton, Ping-Pong, practice golf range and a Mexican Mariachi. (Desert Sun September 27, 1929)
The Mira Monte was the financial success Ralph Pomeroy hoped for but he died soon after the grand opening. During the next thirty years The Mira Monte was owned by a series of investors and underwent numerous renovations, modern updates and expansions. The original Paul Williams’ design was eventually lost in the changes.
With time the tastes of Palm Springs residents and visitors changed. Pre-WWII luxury did not resonate in the 1950s and The Mira Monte was no longer viewed as deluxe accomodations. Eventually the entire complex was demolished and was replaced in 1959 by the South Palm Springs branch of the Security First National Bank. (City of Palm Springs Citywide Historic Context. 2015)