Alexander Construction Company

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The Alexander Construction Company was a Palm Springs, California based residential development company that built over 2,200 houses in the Coachella Valley of Riverside County, California between 1955 and 1965.[1]

The construction of these homes doubled the size of Palm Springs and caused the city to take on a new shape, direction, and character as an enclave of modern architecture in the Mid-century modern style. These houses, collectively known as "Alexanders," have come to be appreciated for their rational designs, modernist style, and innovative construction and are now highly sought after, selling for a premium over their more conventional contemporaries.

History[edit]

Robert Alexander and George Alexander of the Alexander Construction Company

The company was founded by George Alexander and his son Robert, building starter houses of 1,200 square feet (110 m2) priced moderately at $19,500 in south Palm Springs, a location at that time not considered fashionable. Each new development was increasingly ambitious, adding amenities and square footage. By the end of the 1950s, the Alexanders were building in northwest Palm Springs, traditionally the haven of the wealthy and "Old Hollywood" crowd. Joseph C. Dunas was an equal partner with the Alexanders when they built the Twin Palms tract and the Ocotillo Lodge Hotel as well as many other "Alexanders." Alexander, his son, daughter in law and wife perished in a plane crash leaving Palm Springs for Los Angeles.

Projects[edit]

Many of these later houses exceeded 2,000 square feet (200 m2), with the largest adding another 600 square feet (56 m2). A swimming pool was included in all of these designs, priced then from the high $40,000s to the low $50,000s. The neighborhood, known today as Las Palmas, became the neighborhood of choice for the "New Hollywood" crowd seeking weekend Colorado Desert escapes. Dinah Shore, Dean Martin, Joan Collins, Marilyn Monroe, and Harold Robbins each owned an "Alexander." Frank Sinatra's home by E. Stewart Williams is nearby. Nancy Sinatra still lives in the neighborhood.

The majority of Alexander homes were designed by architects Dan Palmer and William Krisel, of Palmer & Krisel.[2] Exceptions include those with an A-frame facade, known as "Swiss Misses",[3] and homes in the Green Fairway Estates[4] tract in south Palm Springs. The Green Fairway Estates in Palm Springs were designed by Donald Wexler, architect of the Palm Springs International Airport.

Publicized projects[edit]

The most well-known Alexander house in Las Palmas is the Lawford/Kennedy house, originally built for Peter Lawford, connected by marriage to the Kennedy family and a charter member of the Rat Pack. During a visit to Palm Springs, President Kennedy was to have stayed at Sinatra's house, but ended up at Lawford's instead. The proximity of Lawford's house to Marilyn Monroe's supposedly gave rise to a rendezvous between JFK and Monroe.

Another well-known Alexander is the "Honeymoon Hideaway" at 1350 Ladera Circle, built by Robert Alexander for his wife in the early 1960s. The house and the Alexanders achieved some level of national celebrity when an eight-page article featuring the house and the family appeared in Look magazine in September 1962.[5] The article portrayed the Alexanders and their estate as the center of social activities in Palm Springs in the early 1960s.

Closure[edit]

George Alexander and his wife Mildred, also known as “Jimmie”, and their son Robert Alexander, with his wife Helene, were killed on November 14, 1965 on an ill-fated flight from Palm Springs to Burbank. The Learjet Model 23 (N243F) was chartered from the Flying Tiger Line and crashed into the Little Chocolate Mountains near Indio, California.[6] Robert and Helene were survived by their 11-year old daughter Jill, who was not on the plane.

There were two additional passengers on board, Richard Koret and Peter Prescott. Koret was a recipient of the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award in 1938 and was the founder of Koret, Inc., a highly regarded handbag manufacturing company. One of Koret's most famous clients was First Lady Jackie Kennedy.[7] Peter Prescott was the 11-year-old son of Bob Prescott, the founder and president of The Flying Tiger Line.

The Alexander Construction Company ceased operations with the deaths of its principals.

Alexander developments[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Niemann, Greg (2006). "Ch. 33: Design – Palm Springs Style". Palm Springs Legends: creation of a desert oasis. San Diego, CA: Sunbelt Publications. p. 286. ISBN 978-0-932653-74-1. OCLC 61211290.  (here for Table of Contents)
  2. ^ PS Modcom - Palmer & Krisel
  3. ^ jetsetmodern.com: a swiss miss among the palms, palm springs alexander modernism
  4. ^ Green Fairway Estates
  5. ^ Harris, T. George; Cal Bernstein (photographs) (September 25, 1962). "The Way-out Way of Life". Look. Retrieved May 23, 2012. 
  6. ^ aviation-safety.net: Accident description
  7. ^ Hirschberg, Lynn (February 23, 2003). "WHY WE LOVE FASHION? IT'S ADDICTIVE.; Knit Picking". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 May 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Harlan, James R. (2011). The Alexanders: A desert legacy. Palm Springs, CA: Palm Springs Preservation Foundation. pp. 56. OCLC 724580769
  • Shulman, Julius (2001). When Mod Went Mass: A Celebration of Alexander Homes. Palm Springs, CA: Palm Springs Historic Site Foundation pp. 21. OCLC 48842007