Twin Palms – Frank Sinatra’s Former Palm Springs EstateAug 4th, 2011 | By Lindsay | Category: Marilyn Monroe Locations
Another Palm-Springs-area location that the Grim Cheaper and I stalked two weekends ago while vacationing in the Coachella Valley was Twin Palms, the former desert home of legendary crooner Frank Sinatra and his then-wife Nancy Barbato. And while I have actually stalked – and even blogged about – this location once before (way back in April of 2008!), since it was in the very early days of my site, it was an extremely short post that did not include any of the property’s vastly fascinating history. So I decided that the estate was most definitely worthy of a re-write.
Apparently, on May 1, 1947, Frank Sinatra, who had just signed a highly profitable movie contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, wandered into the offices of newly-founded architectural firm Williams, Williams, & Williams. At the time, now-legendary architect E. Stewart Williams, who designed Frankie’s house from Alpha Dog which I blogged about last Thursday, was a novice who had just joined his father’s firm and had yet to design a private residence. Frank, who was holding an ice cream cone and wearing a sailor’s hat, informed the team that he wanted them to design and build a huge Georgian-style estate by Christmas, in time for a party the singer was hosting. And even though the desired finish date was only seven short months away, Williams, Williams, & Williams took the job. Apparently, Frank was a difficult man to say “no” to. E. Stewart came up with two designs for the singer, one in the Georgian-style that Frank had originally envisioned, and another in the mid-century-modern-style, which Stewart would later become famous for. Sinatra liked the modern design and the rest, as they say, is history. E. Stewart’s partner and brother, Roger, later said, “We’d have been ruined if we’d been forced to build Georgian in the desert.”
The four-bedroom, five-bathroom, 4,500-square-foot estate, which was built fully air-conditioned at a cost of $150,000, was completed in time for Frank’s party. The property was nick-named “Twin Palms”, thanks to the two large palm trees which flanked the home’s piano-shaped swimming pool. The estate, which is currently used as a vacation rental and filming location, currently boasts authentic period furniture, countless Frank Sinatra memorabilia, the original Valentino sound system on which Frank used to cut his records, a pool house complete with his-and-her bathrooms, and a full library of the iconic crooner’s music.
Frank and Nancy divorced in 1948 and Frank’s mistress and future wife Ava Gardner subsequently moved in. Of her time in the house, Ava said, “It was the site of probably the most spectacular fight of our young married life, and honey don’t think I don’t know that’s really saying something . . . Frank’s establishment in Palm Springs, the only house we really could ever call our own, has seen some pretty amazing occurrences.” Indeed! According to the home’s rental website, one of the sinks in the master bathroom bears a crack from a champagne bottle that Frank threw at Ava during one of their legendary brawls. You can see a photograph of that crack here. Frank also reportedly once threw all of Eva’s belongings into the driveway of the home after she had attempted to catch him cheating on her with actress Lana Turner. It was also in this house that Frank kept a room for his friend and my girl Marilyn Monroe, who was a frequent guest. In 1957, after filing for divorce from Ava, Frank sold the property and moved to a new home in nearby Rancho Mirage. Today, Twin Palms is a Palm Springs Class 1 Historical Site and is featured regularly in photo shoots for fashion magazines, including Men’s Health, Town & Country, Palm Springs Life, Sunset, German Elle, and Vogue. And the dwelling is also a filming location! Apparently Frank allowed the exterior of the property to be featured in the 1950 movie The Damned Don’t Cry, which starred Joan Crawford. You can see some fabulous interior photographs of the estate on the Rearranged Design website here.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: Twin Palms, Frank Sinatra’s former desert home, is located at 1148 East Alejo Road in Palm Springs. You can visit the property’s official website here. Tours of the estate are conducted on a semi-regular basis and private tours, for a minimum of 20 guests, can also be arranged by clicking here.