Join us for a garden tour to remember at the Kaufmann House in 2024.
For the first time in decades, the house that helped define postwar modernism in Palm Springs is opening the gates for an exclusive tour of the grounds. Previously only visible over the fence from the upstairs deck of a Modernism Week bus tour, this special outdoor tour invites guests to stroll through the generous grounds of the Richard Neutra-designed Edgar J. Kaufmann Desert House, 1946, while learning about the history of the property from expert guides.
Tickets go on sale Tuesday, December 19 at 12 p.m. PST. Garden tours will be held on various dates and times, February 16-25, 2024. Tickets will be $65. Don’t miss this chance to see a perfect piece of modernist history in person.
Read on for the cliff notes if you need a refresher on this iconic home’s impeccable modernist pedigree.
Even before Edgar Kaufmann commissioned Richard Neutra to design a house for him in the California desert, the department store magnate had a penchant for modern architecture. Kaufmann was indeed the man who commissioned another well-known architect to build a home for him about 60 miles southeast of his hometown of Pittsburgh; a little place called Fallingwater (yes, THE Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright).
The Second Act
After Kaufmann died in 1955, the house stood vacant for several years but eventually went on to have a series of owners, including singer Barry Manilow and San Diego Chargers owner Eugene V. Klein, and immaculately coiffed socialite and businesswoman Nelda Linsk, who graces Slim Aarons’ legendary photo Poolside Gossip in 1970. During these years, the house underwent several renovations of the period.
The Turning Point
Beth Edwards Harris, PhD, an architectural historian, and her husband at the time Brent Harris, an investment banker, acquired the house in 1993 after it had sat empty for 3.5 years, reduced to being sold as a teardown at $1.5 million. Knowing the architectural significance of what they were purchasing, the Harrises fully intended to restore the home to its original design and commissioned the architectural firm Marmol Radziner to work with them on the 5-year-long project.
The Harrises and architects conducted extensive research, including accessing UCLA’s Neutra archives and documentation found at Columbia University. They also worked with renowned photographer Julius Shulman to obtain his unpublished 1947 photos of the home’s interiors. After removing over 3,000 sf of additions made over the years, the house was carefully deconstructed with each component labeled and documented, until only the skeleton remained. Extraordinary lengths were taken to secure identical materials, including reopening a long-closed quarry in Utah to obtain the original stone used and finding and restoring the original metal crimping machine for the aluminum fascia.
In addition to the restoration, the Harrises purchased several adjoining plots of land, doubling the size of the property to restore the desert buffer that architect Neutra had envisioned for the house.
The restoration of the Kaufmann House was completed in 1998, gaining international attention and making headlines worldwide. While the resurgence of Palm Springs can be attributed to various factors, the stunning restoration of the Kaufmann House by the Harrises played a significant role in leading the Palm Springs revival and awareness of midcentury modern architecture.
In 2020, the Kaufmann House was listed for $25 million but eventually sold off market for $13.06 million in 2022, setting a record in Palm Springs, selling slightly above the $13 million Bob Hope’s former home sold for in 2016. The Kaufmann House now has new stewards, and we are grateful for their devotion to protecting and preserving the property.
The Outdoor Garden Tour will occur on various dates and times, February 16-25, 2024. Tickets are $65 per person and will be available at modernismweek.com starting Tuesday, December 19 at 12 p.m. PST.