As surely as spring delivers us brilliant primroses and
pansies, tours of private homes for public enlightenment and
pleasure will follow.
minimalist International Style
house, designed by Henry Hester and
built in 1958, will be open to
visitors on a home tour on April 30
during Borrego Springs Modern, a day
of events organized by Save Our
Each year, it seems, more historic-preservation and
neighborhood associations throughout San Diego County are
organizing guided or self-guided tours to acquaint their
members and the public with our region's outstanding or
fabled architecture, antique furnishings, romantic old
gardens and generations of multicultural social history.
Some of these tours – such as one on Mother's Day in
Escondido and another at artist-designer James Hubbell's
home and studios near Santa Ysabel – occur almost like
clockwork. The 2003 Cedar fire ravaged Anne and James
Hubbell's unique collection of hand-built structures, so no
open house was held in 2004. The annual event, which
benefits the Ilan-Lael Foundation and ongoing rebuilding of
the Hubbell homestead, will resume on June 11.
A much-anticipated newcomer to this year's field of home
tours will offer visitors an insider's look at Borrego
Springs, the desert town just close enough to San Diego (and
Los Angeles) for weekend trips and the gateway to popular
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Five mid-century modern homes in Borrego Springs, some
never before available to the public, will be open April 30.
They include desert retreats by leading architects and
designers, such as Cliff May (a ranch house by the man
called father of the suburban ranch house), Sim Bruce
Richards (a breezy, adobe "Desert Hacienda") and Henry
Hester (a sleek, International Style home more typical of
Palm Springs residences of the same era).
A morning lecture by Imperial Valley College anthropology
professor Manfred Knaak on Borrego Valley history will kick
off the day in Borrego, which is being organized by Save Our
Heritage Organisation's Modernism Committee and the Borrego
Springs Chamber of Commerce.
And the day of house touring (from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
will close with a wine reception at sunset in a home
designed in 1958 by La Jolla architect Everett Abrams. (For
details and ticket information, see listings.)
Borrego Springs shifted with the times from an
agricultural center for lettuce, grapes and grapefruit to a
golf resort for celebrities and business leaders. Backers in
the 1950s included Robert DiGiorgio of the DiGiorgio Fruit
Corp. and the late newspaper publisher James S. Copley,
owner of the Union-Tribune Publishing Co. and The Borrego
Sun. Building continues to transform this section of
SOHO's Borrego Springs Modern events will focus on the
aspirations and lifestyles of this community, as reflected
in residential design, a half-century ago.
"It's always been a place about big dreams," said Bill
Lawrence, head of SOHO's Modernism Committee, which has
presented two well-attended San Diego Modernism Weekends
(home tours, lectures, exhibits) and is organizing another
for later this year.
Beginning in the mid-1950s, Borrego backers established
de Anza Country Club, which included the golf course and a
planned subdivision around it. One of the so-called Fairway
Cottages, designed by architect Richard Zerbe and built for
potential investors to use while they inspected the valley,
will be on the SOHO tour. Today these cottages are private
homes, some owned by snowbirds who only use them in winter.
"There are lots of 1950s and '60s homes in good condition
in Borrego Springs," Lawrence said.
"Borrego is not Palm Springs," he added, referring to the
playground of a Hollywood generation that included Bob Hope
and Frank Sinatra, and the subject of several recent
coffee-table books on mid-century modern architecture.
More San Diegans have ties to Borrego, Lawrence
suggested. "In a way," he said, "Borrego is San Diego's