Silver Spur Ranch

1956

Gallery Photo Credits:

Photos from California Pictorial magazine Spring 1958 issue. Kaltenbach detail photo by Luke Leuschner.

Kaltenbach tinted detail by Julius Shulman. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10).

Adrian Schwilck had movie star looks, a gleaming smile and eyes that appeared blue even in black & white photos.

 

He also had a company called Silver Spur Properties that owned a block of land nearly half the size of what Cliff Henderson bought up to create the entire town. 

 

Seriously, if you look at a site plan of Palm Desert in the late 40s/early 50s two things are blatant: Cliff’s ambitious vision illustrated street by street; and the large hole of vacant land running up the slope to the base of the foothills between Portola and Highway 74.

 

This made Silver Spur Ranch unique among other developments of the day.

 

For starters, it was independent of Cliff’s Palm Desert Corporation. Adrian put in the water well. He scratched out new streets from the shifting sand. Heck, instead of Cliff’s architectural committee that approved plans , Adrian was the committee for a time.

 

It was also a huge project, about 700 acres, and the size made it very — let’s say entrepreneurial.

 

There were plans, and then they changed. Or evolved. Or pivoted.

 

There wasn’t a clubhouse, then there was, then there wasn’t. A pitch and putt course came and went along with horse stables.

 

While Silver Spur Properties was building contemporary and ranch homes, Adrian also welcomed builders like Charles White Jr., who might put up 20 Mid Century Modern designs. Or he’d sell you a lot, and if your brother-in-law could get plans through the County, you’d soon have a house designed by your

brother-in-law.

 

All of which is how one neighborhood came to embrace different eras and design motifs, from a covered wagon at its entrance to estates with tennis courts to duplexes to Wexlers, Krisels, homes by Cliff May, Walter S. White, Earl Kaltenbach, and someone’s brother-in-law.

What started out a Western

became an epic.

Topics:  Mid Century Modern Architecture, 1950s Ranch Homes, Palm Desert History,

Bing Crosby, John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Donald Wexler

Make like JFK leaving Bing Crosby’s house and drive by the SSR sign near the corner of Haystack and Portola.

Although some recognize Earl Kaltenbach for his design work on Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, his influence in the Ranch most closely follows a farmhouse style he championed in Southern California, particularly in Orange County's Rossmor development of 1955.