August 17, 2012

Photo Essay: Elvis' Honeymoon History at The House of Tomorrow (Updated for 2022)

[Last updated 12/18/22 8:34 PM PT—The home has been renovated and was featured in the fall edition of Palm Springs Modernism Week in 2022. You can see my photos from the tour here.]

Since I'd woken up this morning—at 7 a.m., without aid of an alarm clock—I'd been trying to figure out what to do with my day. 

I knew I wasn't ready to leave the desert to return to LA yet, but what was keeping me here in the desert?

And what was drawing me back to LA at all? Ever?

I spent several hours in Limbo, caught in the middle of a tug of war between Joshua Tree and LA, in which neither side was even trying to win. Neither opponent was really pulling at all.

And then it occurred to me today, on the 35th anniversary of Elvis' death, how proximate I was to Palm Springs, the West Coast home-away-from-Memphis of our dearly-departed King of Rock and Roll.

Fortunately, I discovered that two of his former dwellings were open for public viewings in commemoration of the King: the Estate which he owned from 1970 to his death in 1977 (photos forthcoming), and the modernist home he leased for a year in 1966—formerly "The House of Tomorrow" (Palmer & Krisel, 1962), now known as the "Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway."

[Update: Both properties are now closed to the public.]

And so, instead of driving to some ghost town or hiking some ghost highway, to Palm Springs I went, in search of the ghost of Elvis.

After eloping in Vegas to escape paparazzi in 1967, Elvis and Priscilla returned to Palm Springs to spend six months as newlyweds at the Ladera Circle landmark, and its owners have tried to leave things just as they were back then.

As with many modernist structures, the House of Tomorrow is distinctly geometric...

...its exterior triangles of a "batwing" roof framing the building...

...whose floorplan is comprised of four concentric circles...

...a theme repeated throughout.

Of course, memorabilia—framed photos, gold records and the like—now plaster the walls...

...and are scattered throughout the house.

It's easy to imagine that this is actually where Elvis sat.

It seems like everywhere in Palm Springs likes to tout "Elvis was here!" or "Elvis partied here!"...

...but he didn't just pass through this house.

Naturally, because they allow tour-takers like me to also sit where Elvis once sat, the couch [Ed 12/18/22: a 65-foot-long sectional] has suffered a bit of wear and tear. 

A few modifications have been made to the house, including painting the vents black, and cutting down the wall that separated the elevated dining room from the front entrance...

...but in the kitchen, most of the fixtures are original, including a built-in grill...

...six electric burners...

...and a futuristic, built-in countertop blender/mixer.

The upstairs bathroom features a fantastic jetted tub, with a secret passageway behind a door that makes it look like just another closet.

The master bedroom was officially Priscilla's bedroom until their wedding night—though thanks to the secret passageway, they were able to surreptitiously share it beforehand. 

The current bed is a replica of the original. They let you lie on it, too. 

As with many modernist homes, the pool in the back is spectacular.

Clearly, the furniture is not original. [Ed 12/18/22: And in the most recent "rehabilitation," the terrazzo pool deck was illegally replacerd.]

A circular paving stone path leads up to the back of the property, which was never completed prior to the tragic death of the estate's owner, resident, and developer Robert Alexander by plane crash in 1965. The Alexander Construction Company—which was responsible for nearly all of the homes designed by modernist architects in the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood of Palm Springs—ceased operations after the death of its principles.

So this, too, is just as it was when Elvis lived here, frolicking by the pool, picking roses for Priscilla.

No one lives at The House of Tomorrow anymore. 

It still feels modern and even somewhat futuristic. 

But its purpose now is to commemorate the past: it functions full-time as a museum dedicated to the year that Elvis spent there, 45 years ago, 10 years before his death.

[Update 12/20/20: The Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway house has been sold by its elderly owner, and its Elvis history and artifacts will not be preserved by its new owner.]

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Stahl House, From Dusk to Night
Photo Essay: California Dream Homes
Photo Essay: California Dream Homes, Part 2
Photo Essay: A Real Fixer-Upper

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