Architectural Legacy

Champions of E. Stewart Williams promote his structures for national historic designation.

Lydia Kremer Modernism

Santa Fe Federal Savings, now the Palm Springs Art Museum Architectural and Design Center, Edward Harris Pavilion, is one of the designated buildings up for historic designation.

“It is necessary to understand history, and he who understands history knows how to find continuity between that which was, that which is, and that which will be.”
-Le Corbusier

The words by Le Corbusier, the late Swiss-born architect and visionary considered the father of modern architecture, signify the effort underway to secure designation on the National Register of Historic Places for 12 Palm Springs buildings and homes designed by the late modernist architect, E. Stewart Williams.

Understanding the importance of Williams’ stellar body of work and how it continues to influence Palm Springs’ architecture can be underscored by Le Corbusier’s view.

“E. Stewart Williams, was one of the most important architects ever to have lived and worked in the Coachella Valley,” says Peter Moruzzi, an architectural historian and founder of the Palm Springs Modern Committee. “Our Williams-designed properties deserve recognition amongst the greatest and most significant modern buildings in the state and across the nation.” 

One of Williams’ 1955 restored commercial projects, the Shops at Thirteen Forty-Five will serve as backdrop to a Modernism Week Fall Preview event. Produced by Modernism Week, funds raised at the chic cocktail party will be donated by Modernism Week to the national designation process.

Moruzzi is the author of the 42-page historic designation submission — a lengthy process that is administered through the National Park Service under the aegis of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Mountain Station.

He has been down this road before, writing the Albert Frey historic designation submission that led to 10 of his structures earning spots on the National Register of Historic Places.

Williams’ family also has worked to seal the architect’s legacy in Palm Springs. His daughter-in-law, Sidney Williams, married to Stewart’s son, Erik, successfully led an effort to reinvent E. Stewart Williams’ 1961 Santa Fe Federal Savings into the Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion.

“We are thrilled that Stewart is receiving this recognition for his architecture, which expressed his love of modern design and the desert environment,” says Sidney, the former curator of Architecture and Design of the A+D Center.

The Edris Residence in Palm Springs, owned by J.R. Roberts, Palm Springs city councilman.

The California State Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) in Redlands will review Stewart’s nomination Oct. 28. The OHP is the organization that reviews, approves, and recommends the national designation that grants both state and national historic status simultaneously.

“The support and admiration of my father’s work by the community is enormously gratifying to the Williams family,” says Erik Williams.

The 12 buildings by E. Stewart Williams included in the historic designation on the National Register of Historic Places are:

• Coachella Valley Savings No. 1, 383 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

• Coachella Valley Savings No. 2, 499 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

• Edris Residence,1030 W. Cielo Drive, Palm Springs

• Frank Sinatra House, 1145 E. Via Colusa Road, Palm Springs

• Kenaston Residence, 39767 Desert Sun Drive, Rancho Mirage

• Koerner Residence, 1275 S. Calle de Maria, Palm Springs

• Oasis Commercial Building, 101 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

• Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Mountain Station, 25905 California Highway 243, Idyllwild

• Palm Springs Desert Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs

• Palm Springs Unified School District Educational Administrative Center, 333 S. Farrell Drive, Palm Springs

• E. Stewart and Mari Williams Residence, 1314 Culver Place, Palm Springs

• Santa Fe Federal Savings, 300 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs