Purple Hills Estates


Gallery Photo Credits:

Special thanks to Merilee Colton and Ryan Harris.

News clippings courtesy of the California Digital Newspaper Collection. 

There’s a reason most historic neighborhoods are in what locals call South Palm Desert: the parcels Cliff Henderson purchased to build the town were all south of Highway 111.


Remember, too, that Cliff intended Palm Desert to be the smartest address on the American desert.


To bring this swanky-town vision to life, every lot in The Palm Desert Corporation’s land holdings was subject to approval by an architectural committee charged with enforcing rules and restrictions for development.


Chief among these was the expectation that houses south of El Paseo would be custom. In other words, no tract of cookie cutter houses sitting side by side.


Then along came a buyer who wanted 30 lots. Fearing it would be a tract, the committee scuttled the sale . . . that somehow slid through anyway, causing the entire architectural committee to Q-U-I-T.


Which is how Joe Dunas, a successful developer who partnered with the Alexander Company on many projects in Los Angeles and later in Palm Springs, came to build a tract that wasn’t a tract called Purple Hills Estates.


Architected by Charles Du Bois (who worked with developer Roy Fey to design Canyon Estates in Palm Springs), Purple Hills Estates had the same floor plans with a menu of different façades to please many tastes:


Parthenon with Greek columns

Fontainebleau with a mansard roof

Desert Ranch

Mid Century Modern


Look for Joe Dunas’ sly project sprinkled among many one-of-a-kind homes across several streets, including Tarmarisk, Goldflower, Salt Cedar, Shadow Mountain, as well as other locations nearby.

When T-R-A-C-T was a four letter word.

If you visit:

Purple Hills Estates homes are found throughout south Palm Desert, in particular on these streets all east of Highway 74:


Shadow Mountain Way 

Bursera Way

Tamarisk Street

Goldflower Street

Salt Cedar Street


To learn more:




Topics: Mid Century Modern Architecture, Charles Du Bois, Palm Desert History,

Palm Desert Modernism, Mid Century Modern Home Map, Self-Guided Mid Mod Tour

As early as 1956, Palm Desert positioned itself as a place for growing families like this one to live year-round.