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If You Build It They Will Come: design & social impact of 50s country clubs

February 20, 2018 | 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm |


Melissa Riche is a writer, researcher and local historian. Her presentation reveals how the creation of Thunderbird and Tamarisk Country Clubs transformed barren desert into an oasis of influence, intrigue, and important architecture that became Rancho Mirage.

In the early 1950s, two clubs opened ten miles down valley from Palm Springs in virtually empty desert. They offered the first fairway home sites in the country with spectacular views, top golf pros, and exclusive, limited membership. The gamble paid off, attracting the rich, famous, and influential. Celebrities like Frank Sinatra, the Marx Brothers, Bing Crosby, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz led the charge by buying homes, playing golf, and partying with oil barons, titans of industry and US presidents like Eisenhower, Nixon, and eventually Gerald Ford. The social combination was unique in the USA, if not the world. The clubs not only impacted the areas growth, but the way the nation was run. Walter and Leonore Annenberg followed suit by building their own private golf estate, Sunnylands, that further underscored the socio-political importance of this desert region. Their friends Ronald and Nancy Reagan, George H. W. and Barbara Bush visited often, and they also received British royalty. These influencers left in their wake an architectural legacy of beautiful houses and resort-style communities designed by major modernist architects including William F. Cody, Donald Wexler, Richard Harrison, William Krisel, E. Stewart Williams, A. Quincy Jones, and William Pereira.

Mod Mirage will be published by Gibbs Smith, Fall 2018.


February 20, 2018
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Event Categories:
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Rancho Mirage Public Library
71100 Highway 111
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270 United States
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Additional Information

10 and older
Things to Know
Seating is unreserved. Disabled / wheelchair access. Please arrive 15 minutes before start time.
Special Parking Instructions
Free parking at library.
Photography Credits
Melissa Riche archive, Courtesy of Palm Springs Historical Society, George Szanik. Courtesy of UCLA Special Collections Library