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The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn has a rich, illustrious history and is nestled in its own world in the Coachella Valley. The Willows was originally built as a private residence for a prominent Los Angeles businessman, but it eventually became a gathering place for some of Hollywood's most famous names and other prominent figures. People such as Clark Gable, Shirley Temple, and Albert and Elsa Einstein flocked to this hidden paradise to escape the busyness of the city and enjoy the lush terrain that surrounds the property. The Willows has been designated by the Palm Springs Historic Preservation Board as a Class 1 historic site and is one of the oldest still standing in Palm Springs.

The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn

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Albert and Elsa Einstein at the Willows Inn

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The Willows Inn Featured in the Palm Springs Villager Magazine, 1948

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The Former Home of Roland Bishop, Seen Here in 1949, Is Now Apart of The Willows

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Historic Photo of The Willows, 1940s

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The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn was not built as an inn, instead, it was a private residence for William and Nella Mead. Mead was a real estate developer, banker, and sat on the board of Water Commissioners in Los Angeles. To design their desert home, the Meads chose architect William J. Dodd to construct an elegant estate such as the one he designed for producer Cecil B. DeMille in Bel-Air. The magnificent Mediterranean style home that they came to call The Willows was completed in 1925 and featured prime views of the illustrious Coachella Valley.

William and Nella Mead were good friends with another multi-millionaire in Los Angeles, Roland Bishop, and he too decided to build in the desert. Roland Bishop, who owned a 30,000 square foot home in Holmby Hills, made his fortune in the cracker and candy business. Mead, who also had a mansion in the Silver Lake area, joined with Bishop in selling their elaborate homes to live more simply in bungalows at the Beverly Hills Hotel, then would vacation in the Coachella Valley. William Dodd was chosen to design Roland Bishop's home on the adjoining property of The Willows, opting to give each their own unique physical appearance.

Unfortunately, William Mead's time at The Willows was brief, he died in November 1927 after a brief bout with pneumonia. Two years later, Nella sold The Willows to a New York attorney named Samuel Untermyer. Untermyer was an enthusiastic host at The Willows, opening his doors to a variety of guests such as Jimmy Walker (mayor of New York City), child star Shirley Temple, Governor Herbert Lehman of New York, and even Albert Einstein. Einstein and his wife Elsa enjoyed the tranquility of the property and would spend hours sunbathing by the pool. The bench where Einstein would sit and gaze at the landscape of the tranquil Coachella Valley is still in place on the hill right above The Willows. Untermyer passed away in 1940 and The Willows was maintained by his family until the mid-1950s when Marion Davies, actress and former love of William Randolph Hearst, purchased The Willows and the next-door Desert Inn. Davies brought her own entourage of celebrities to The Willows such as fellow silent screen star Mary Pickford and her husband actor Buddy Rogers.

Davies sold the property in 1964 and all of the priceless contents in The Willows were auctioned off, marking the decline of the historic site and property. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Tracy Conrad and her husband Dr. Paul Manrut purchased The Willows, restored it to its original splendor, and established The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn. In 2019, The Willows doubled in size when they acquired the next-door Bishop House.

The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn. The Willows History, The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn. Invalid date. Accessed October 26th 2019.

Brown , Renee. Explore Palm Springs: The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn, Palm Springs Life. October 6th 2016. Accessed October 26th 2019.

The Bishop House in Palm Springs Now Open Doubles The Size of The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn, Palm Springs California. January 7th 2019. Accessed October 26th 2019.

The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn. Introducing the Bishop House at the Willows, The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn. Accessed October 28th 2019.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Los Angeles Times

The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn

Gail B. Thompson, Gayle’s Studio

Tracy Conrad

The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn