A decades-long collector of postcards, photographs, and brochures, Peter Moruzzi began picking up those dealing with the Coachella Valley as soon as he moved here in 1998. An architectural historian, he was drawn to the valley’s midcentury modern heritage and now serves as president of the P.S. Modern Committee. At this month’s Modernism Show (Feb. 13-14), he will sign his recently published Palm Springs Holiday, an image-filled coffee table book structured much like his documentary, Desert Holiday: a vintage tour from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea.
Despite his years as a collector and historian, Moruzzi found some surprises in the desert.
“It was unbelievable how much publicity material for this area was produced in the 20th century,” he says. “It became pretty obvious after five or six years that I had enough to put together a book. I knew it was going be a lot of fun. The material indicated the valley at that time, the ’40s to ’70s, was an exceptionally fun place to be — and still is, but in a different way.”
About 70 percent of the contents came from his own collection; the rest he borrowed from friends or the local historical societies.
While Moruzzi was fascinated with the “fly-in, drive-in” Desert Air Hotel and Cottages in Palm Desert (where dining room guests could gaze out the windows upon planes sitting on the grass), his favorite place that no longer exists is William Cody’s Huddle Springs (the property on South Palm Canyon Drive at Mesquite Avenue in Palm Springs remains vacant to this day).
“Huddle Springs was probably the most unusual and, I think, beautiful coffee shop/restaurant/steakhouse ever built in Southern California,” Moruzzi says. “William Cody was one of the greatest architects in Southern California. I think it was his masterpiece.”
Among buildings still standing, his favorite is the Bank of America (originally City National Bank) at the point where Palm Canyon and Indian Canyon drives meet in Palm Springs: “Its curves, its freeform design, its use of mosaic tile, its incredibly high ceilings and open plan,” Moruzzi says. “It’s a very exciting building.”
The Palm Springs Sands Hotel (now Palm Court Inn on North Palm Canyon Drive) touted free television, radio, and hi-fi among its amenities.
Peter Moruzzi from Palm Springs Holiday by Peter Moruzzi / reprinted with permission of Gribbs Smith.