The Rat Pack Leader’s First House — A Palm Springs Legend
May 1, 1947, Frank Sinatra — who had just signed a million-dollar 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 was a novice who had just joined his father’s firm and had yet to design a private residence. Sinatra, holding an ice cream cone and wearing a sailor’s hat, informed the architects that he wanted them to design and build a huge Georgian-style estate (well, let’s forgive Frank; he was from Hoboken) by Christmas, in time for a party the singer was hosting. Though the desired finish date was only seven months out, Williams, Williams & Williams accepted the commission.
Williams 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, for which Stewart would become famous. Sinatra liked the modern design, and work began on the home in which Sinatra hoped to raise his new family. 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 — built fully air-conditioned at a cost of $150,000, both astounding for their time — was completed in time for Frank’s party. Nick-named “Twin Palms”, thanks to the two large palm trees flanking the home’s piano-shaped swimming pool, the residence currently boasts authentic period furniture, countless Frank Sinatra memorabilia, the original Valentino sound system on which Sinatra 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 his first wife, Nancy, divorced in 1948, and Sinatra’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, 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, within this post. 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 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.
Toward the end of this post, enjoy a few beautiful night shots along the piano-shaped pool. And, then… watch the video of Frank, Dean, and Sammy entertaining special friends under the walkway along the poolside!
From a design perspective, one interesting facet is that the home — comprised of two lots fronting two roads — has neither a traditionally thought-of front nor back… but, indeed, both street-sides serve as a dedicated front and dedicated back. Each road-facing side of the residence serves as either an entrance or exit and a front or a back. One side — serving for neighbors’ homes as their street front — is primarily for vehicle entry, though it boasts a gated walkway entry, as well, that leads to the circular drive and the home’s double entry doors… and carport. Conversely, the other residence side — also serving for neighbors’ homes as their street front — features a dramatic, step-walled pedestrian entrance, with a gated entry with covered walkway leading guests past the impressive piano-shaped pool and to the house, which double doors served as the main entry doors or, depending on your perspective and use, also the doors exiting the home to the leisure area and pool. Brilliant.
Perspective of the home’s front with vehicle entrance, circular drive, walkway, and carport.
Perspective of the home’s front with step-walled pedestrian entrance, with a gated entry and covered walkway to the home.
Perspective exiting the home and touring around the piano-shaped pool with covered walkway.
Note that the walkway’s shadows create an effect of piano keys along the edge of the piano-shaped pool.
An inside look around this legendary party pad and residence.
A few pool images at night.
Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin & Sammy Davis Jr. Sing At One of Frank’s Twin Palms Parties
UPDATE: Frank Sinatra Compound in Rancho Mirage… Frank’s Next Home
I stated in my original posting, “In 1957, after filing for divorce from Ava, Frank sold the property and moved to a new home in nearby Rancho Mirage.”
Several interested queries were received about Sinatra’s new digs. Well, he moved to a much larger “estate” to be sure, but it was no design palace and certainly not notable for anything other than who lived and entertained there. In fact, he and his own family called it, “The Compound.”
The Rancho Mirage Sinatra Compound was a sprawling complex of buildings interconnected around a leisure-land playground of pools, movie theater, tennis courts, and desert-landscaped grounds… all lined alongside of a club’s golf course. The buildings are fairly generic and sided with a rough-hewn wood common to the desert environ. One distinguishing feature: a twelve-car garage.
In fact, the owner who purchased the compound from Sinatra in 1996, two years before his death, noted in an interview with a local journalist that he didn’t purchase it because of any luxury aura, grand design, or even for the allure of being Frank Sinatra’s digs for so many decades. Nope, he bought it because it functioned as a reasonable facsimile to a hotel for his use as a corporate training and meeting facility with the new owner’s expansive lines of business. As a Canadian multi-billionaire, the new owner does’t live in the home, though he does have a personal home nearby in Palm Springs.
So, without further ado, Frank Sinatra Compound in Rancho Mirage…