A storied Hollywood history

Peek Inside: the William Holden Estate

William Holden House 2022The Palm Springs area has a plethora of spectacular homes that have in the past, or are currently owned by the rich and famous. While the desert community is just two hours by car (or limousine) from Hollywood, it feels worlds apart, especially for celebrities seeking privacy and scenic vistas where they can decompress from their hectic and very public lifestyle.

While the famous owners may have sold their residence or passed on, scores of Palm Springs homes have retained their name for many decades. A prime example of this is the William Holden Estate, where the famed Hollywood leading man lived for just 11 years, building a new home not far away in the Southridge neighborhood in 1977. Ownership of the property has changed hands several times since Holden’s days here, with Tippi Hedren, the star of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and the mother of actor Melanie Griffith living here for six years in the 1990s. But the Holden name remains attached to the amazing home to this day. (For Hitchcock buffs, Hedren, whose real name is Nathalie Kay Hedren, is still with us at age 94.)

William Holden House 2022Designed by master builder Joe Pawling, the William Holden Estate in Palm Springs is known for its many glass walls, utilizing post-and-beam construction methods. This amounts to widely spaced wood posts framing the home, providing the required structural support. The walls are then placed into these ‘frames’, with glass being utilized extensively, making for a very open feeling both inside the house, as well as for viewing outdoors across the one-acre lot.

The modernist design by Pawling is instantly recognizable in the architecture as well as the interior design which was built in 1955 for George F. and Marcia Barrett, wealthy philanthropists and socialites from Illinois. Hollywood star Holden owned the property in the Deepwell Estates neighborhood from 1966 to 1977. Holden died in 1981 and is best remembered for his Oscar winning role in Stalag 17, plus superb performances in Sunset Boulevard, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and Network.

William Holden House 2022Also known as the “Barrett Residence”, the five bedroom, 5.5 bath, 4,559-square-foot residence was designated a Class 1 Historic Site by the City of Palm Springs in 2018. This designation by the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation assures that the lot will remain intact well into the future without the risk of being affected by possible future development proposals.

William Holden House 2022Another distinguishing characteristic of the William Holden Estate includes an incredible 47 pivoting doors and windows, allowing the residents to bring the outdoors in, so to speak, at their discretion.

William Holden House 2022The expansive lot has the house positioned in the front of the property, with the area behind the house almost feeling like a park. This allowed for a large pool that measures 21 x 55 feet. The views from the house and pool deck of the nearby San Jacinto Mountains are nothing short of stunning. A time-honored mid-century fireplace remains central to the elegant living area from the original construction.

William Holden House 2022The Deepwell Estates neighborhood has been home to myriad famous people including Elizabeth Taylor, Jack Webb (Dragnet), Eddie Fisher, Jerry Lewis, Eva Gabor, Gavin MacLeod (Love Boat), and even the hot dog maven Oscar Mayer. The William Holden Estate is one of the largest and most distinguished homes in the community.

If you’re looking for ideas to create your own midcentury-styled home like this one, why not get some tips from the experts? The folks at Apartment Guide asked us here at Modern Tours Palm Springs for our best midcentury modern design advice, which you can read here.