By Danielle Kelly | January 8, 2016 | Home & Real Estate
As buyers snap up mid-mod treasures, they’re finding some of the best in the strip-side Paradise Palms neighborhood—courtesy of some of the architects who gave Palm Springs its iconic look.
3546 Pueblo Way is a perfect example of what Mid-century Modern living is in Vegas.
For residents of Las Vegas’s inner-east-side Paradise Palms, the seemingly endless swell of attention for their neighborhood is perfectly justified. The community’s space-age swank is in high demand, synonymous as it is with the romanticized heyday of the city. But while Paradise Palmers know they’ve lucked out to have secured architectural treasures (some at bargain prices), the reasons for their passionate dedication are a bit more complex. For one, in a city that quickly sprawled from its original center, their neighborhood has been lived in and loved much longer than any planned tract development. And the sense of community is strong
It’s hard to overstate the visual allure of a Paradise Palms home. Developed in the early 1960s as the first master-planned community in Southern Nevada by Las Vegas legend Irwin Molasky and his Paradise Development group, the neighborhood owes its visual aesthetic largely to iconic architectural firm Palmer & Krisel. “Paradise Palms,” according to Nevada Preservation Foundation Executive Director Heidi Swank, “emerged directly out of California Modernism.” Distinctive elements of mid-century design dominate Paradise Palms as much as Palm Springs or San Diego, areas heavily influenced by the vision of lead architect William Krisel. Floor-to-ceiling glass, decorative breeze and shadow block, clerestory windows, wide-open spaces, fluid indoor/outdoor integration: All are indicative of a style deeply rooted in the desire to be utterly modern. By working with homebuilders and developers in designing mass-produced housing made of readily available industrial materials, Dan Palmer and Krisel were perhaps the most modern of their peers. This was the atomic age, when optimism for the future collided with popular culture.
This translated into an architecture that elevated the quality of life for its residents. Time spent in any of these homes reveals a space that seamlessly brings the spare, bright desert landscape indoors while drawing residents to playful outdoor swimming pools, intimate courtyards, and dramatic canopies to shield the sun.
Krisel isn’t the only architect associated with Paradise Palms, and part of the neighborhood’s curbside appeal is that no two homes look alike. Desert Inn architect Hugh Taylor designed a number of homes, as did many others. Paradise Palms resident of 14 years and City of Las Vegas planner Dave Cornoyer is drawn to the idiosyncratic streetscapes. “There’s a wonderful mixture of decorative stonework on façades and chimneys, and then there’s fun, funky details that add character.” This giddy collage of styles and rooflines is part of what makes the neighborhood so visually unique.
Paradise Palms’ legendary status as a haven for celebrities also makes it extra sexy. Space-age musician Esquivel and pop singer Bobby Darin have called Paradise Palms home. Johnny Carson and Joe Louis both lived in the same house (at different times) on Seminole Circle. Members of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, the Ink Spots, and Primus have all resided on its thoroughfares. And, of course, former resident Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal lends some mobster street cred. “Countless notable Nevadans, politicians, and casino executives live here,” notes Cornoyer. “We have lots of history here, and bragging rights, something you don’t get with most other neighborhoods.”
If it’s the architecture and history that draw residents, it is their neighbors who keep them there. “It’s not just a collection of houses—it was always planned to be a community of neighbors,” Cornoyer explains. “The Stardust Championship Golf Course and Country Club was at the heart of the neighborhood; there was a private park with its own activities director and there was a community newspaper.” Today, Las Vegas National Golf Club continues to be a center of activity. “On any given day, you’ll find a neighbor helping another out with a renovation project, another one watching someone’s house while the owner is on vacation,” says six-year resident Denise Heximer.
People are working hard to preserve the neighborhood they love by looking to communities like Palm Springs for inspiration. According to Swank, “Palm Springs is a great example of how historic preservation can bring significant economic and social value to a community.” Swank and the Nevada Preservation Foundation have worked in recent years with a group of residents to name the original portion of the Paradise Palms as Clark County’s first Historic Neighborhood, gathering support for naming it to the County Register for Historic Places and collaborating with the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office to research the community’s architectural history.
Realtor and NPF board member Jack Levine only sees the neighborhood’s popularity continuing to rise. Buyers who love the architecture and history “want the feeling of space and openness that really was an invention of the modern era,” and while some want a restored home, many are eager to do the renovation work themselves. Fully restored homes in the California Modern style like those at 3539 Pueblo Way, with its rock-face detailing and peak-topped clerestory windows, or the ultramodern ranch at 1428 Pawnee Drive have been very popular, according to Levine. “Homes that are ripe for a redesign are more plentiful,” such 3240 Seneca Drive, with its clean lines and vaulted ceiling, which he recently listed. “Now that there’s momentum—lots of the homes already occupied by fans of modernism— Paradise Palms is attracting other like-minded people, and the popularity continues to grow.”
photography by Dave Cornoyer