Off The Beaten Path Midcentury Modern Walking Tour

midcentury modern architect e stewart williams grave wellwood murray cemetery palm springsmidcentury modern architect albert frey grave wellwood murray cemetery palm springs
My favorite Modernism Week events are the Walking Tours. But they do tend to sell out fast, so check their website for availability. http://www.modernismweek.com

One of my favorite places to walk–that’s full of midcentury modern history–is the Welwood Murray Cemetery, in downtown Palm Springs. E. Stewart Williams and Albert Frey are both buried there, along with a few celebrities, town founders, city pioneers and a couple of close family friends.

I have a personal midcentury modern connection to this final resting place of these notable personalities–in a six degrees of separation, sort of way. E. Stewart Williams was the architect who designed Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate (which is walking distance to this cemetery and located on the same street, Alejo Road).

When Frank Sinatra sold this home in 1957 and moved to his Rancho Mirage compound at the Tamarisk Country Club, the buyers who purchased Twin Palms were Hugh and Maurine Young, close friends of my family. Hugh and Maurine lived in Frank’s iconic midcentury modern masterpiece for 40 years, until their deaths in the 1990s. Hugh died in 1997.

E. Stewart Williams and Hugh and Maurine Young are now all buried at the Wellwood Murray Cemetery. But the story doesn’t stop there. I came to know the Youngs through my grandparents, Ted and Sarah Best. Ted and Sarah and Hugh and Maurine were inseparable for decades. And they were all fans of Frank Sinatra. When my grandparents died, they were buried at Desert Memorial Park, in Cathedral City–a few rows from where Frank Sinatra is buried. They died before Frank, so I’m pretty sure none of this was planned.

I’m not sure what any of this means, but it seems like it should mean something, beyond mere coincidence. All I know for sure is that I fell in love with midcentury modern architecture when I first walked through the door of my grandparents new midcentury modern home in 1960, in the Chino Canyon neighborhood of Palm Springs. I was only seven years old. I believe it was also the same year I visited Sinatra’s former Twin Palms home for the first time. I didn’t know what cheating was, at that young age, but I’m sure that was the guilty feeling I was feeling, because I fell even more in love with Hugh and Maurine’s and Frank’s home. And that’s how my love affair with midcentury modern architecture started.

Feel free to share how your love affair with midcentury modern architecture started, in the comments section below.

How to find the Welwood Murray Cemetery: From Palm Canyon Drive, go west on Alejo Road until it dead ends into the cemetery. It’s one of those hidden in plain sight landmarks.

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