The Architects That Built Palm Springs: Hugh Kaptur - Visit Palm Springs tag-img

The Architects That Built Palm Springs: Hugh Kaptur


Hugh Kaptur was born in Detroit and worked for a time in the styling division of General Motors. His father had been a designer engineer at Packard and GM. He studied architectural engineering at the Lawrence Institute of Technology in Detroit before joining the US Marine Corps in 1951.

Hugh Kaptur arrived in Palm Springs in 1954 and relocated here in 1956. Kaptur worked briefly for Wexler & Harrison but was laid off during the 1957 recession.

Business picked up in 1958 when homebuilders began developing Palm Springs on a large scale, and Kaptur found himself designing post-and-beam houses. In 1963, he partnered with licensed architect Robert Ricciardi to get the Palm Springs Fire Station #3 commission. Kaptur did not receive his California architecture license until 1966.

After that partnership broke up in 1965, he formed a company with Larry Lapham, noted architect Howard Lapham’s son, which lasted ten years. After a collaboration with James Cioffi, he semi-retired in 1992.

His original post-and-beam style can be found in many Palm Springs homes. He aimed to reflect a quiet elegance by keeping good proportions. His later work, and most of his work, was in an organic modern style inspired by the desert architecture of Arizona. His buildings often feature thick walls, deeply inset windows, and wide overhangs that protect them from absorbing the intense desert heat.

With more than 200 built projects in the area- residential, commercial, and institutional- he played a significant role in the architectural development of Palm Springs.

Hugh Kaptur received a Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars in 2014 and has been honored in many events during Modernism Week.

Key Works in Palm Springs

Impala Lodge: 1958, 555 East San Lorenzo Road

This was Hugh Kaptur’s first project. It is now the Triangle Inn. The luxurious 9-unit building featured a lobby and family room framed in plate glass and steel, reaching a height of 15 feet.

Hugh Kaptur Impala Lodge-architect

Arthur Boyer Residence: 1959, 984 North Rose Avenue

A 1,600 sq. ft. house with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms in the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood.


Hugh Kaptur Residence: 1958, 1897 East Belding Drive

Kaptur built a 1,597-square-foot home with 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms in the Sunrise Park neighborhood. William Cody built his home a short walk away. Located in the Sunrise Park neighborhood.

Hugh Kaptur Residence2

The William Burgess Residence: 1958, 550 Palisades Drive.

This was designed by Hugh Kaptur and William Burgess in 1957. It is referred to as the bougainvillea house because of the surrounding bougainvillea. This 2,932 square foot home sits on 1 acre. It has 4 bedrooms and 2 baths.

kaptur-Burgess Residence

McCauley Residence: 1958, 1366 S. Calle Rolph.

Located in the Deepwell Estates neighborhood, this 2,136 square foot home had 3 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms.

Bahama Hotel & Apartments: 1959, 2323 N. Palm Canyon Drive.

This opened as a two-story, 30-room hotel with air conditioning and television for all rooms. The owner was the aunt of Kaptur’s wife at the time, Rosemarie. This is now The Cole Hotel.

bahama-hotel-Hugh Kaptur

Desert Park Estates: 1958

Tom Sills and the Ranch Construction Company developed them. The houses in this development had 5 model designs: Saddle, Sombrero, Spur, Lariat, and Prairie.

Desert Park Estates Hugh Kaptur

Earl Strebe Spec Residence I: 1959, 1951 South Camino Monte

This 1,937 square foot home has 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. It is located in The Mesa neighborhood. It is one of the finest examples of modern hillside architecture. Earl Strebe was the owner of the first local theaters in Palm Springs. He was the brother of George Strebe, who opened The Doll House (1032 N. Palm Canyon, demolished) restaurant.

This has been remodeled and is a vacation rental called On The Rocks. It has 3 bedrooms, 4 baths, and is 2,684 square feet.

Hugh Kaptur Strebe House1

Earl Strebe Spec Residence II: 1959, 1935 South Camino Monte

This is a 1,500 square foot home with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.

Pete Siva Residence: 1959, 660 Palisades Drive

Simplicity is part of the feat. What could have been a showpiece on a showy strip of land beside the San Jacinto Mountains, Kaptur scaled modestly. With glass sides, the post-and-beam home seems to disappear, save for the orange sunshades Albert Frey added when he lived next door. A 3,000-square-foot flagstone terrace hugs the mountain and wraps around the house, creating opportunities for patio dining and view-gazing over the valley.

Hugh Kaptur Siva House


 Ralph Breeden Residence: 1959, 2995 N. Chuperosa Road

This modest 1,396 square foot home has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and is located in the Desert Part Estates neighborhood. It has been featured during Modernism Week by Atomic Ranch magazine. It was fully renovated in 2018 while preserving the context of the original architecture.

Hugh Kaptur Breeden Residence

Werner Hogback Residence: 1960, 1577 Calle Marcus

This home is located in the Deepwell Estates neighborhood. Hogback was a local developer. It is 2,093 square foot with 3 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms. The house is a study of Hugh Kaptur design: Masonry, Exposed Beams, Wall of Glass, Floating Roof-line, Geometric Angles and expansive interior spaces. Lovingly restored and maintained, and Hugh Kaptur approved.

Hugh Kaptur Hogback Residence

Larry Gee Residence: 1961, 2302 West Nicola Road

A 1,444 square foot home with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. Located in the Desert Park Estates neighborhood.

Hugh Kaptur Larry Gee Residence

Richard Gillian Residence: 1961, 2755 Verona Road

A 2,040 square foot home with 4 bedrooms and 2.5 baths. It was featured in the 2018 Palm Springs Modernism Week Home Tour.

Hugh Kaptur Gillian Residence

Noel Gillette Residence II: 1963, 1033 East Via Colusa

This large 6,083 square foot home boasts 5 bedrooms and 4 baths. It sits on .83 acres and is located in The Movie Colony close the the Twin Palms Frank Sinatra Estate.

Hugh Kaptur Gillette Residence

Palm Springs Fire Station #3 – 1963, 590 E. Racquet Club Road.

Partnering briefly with architect Robert Ricciardi.

Hugh Kaptur Fire Station 3

Steve McQueen Residence: 1964, 2203 Southridge Drive

The Broadway song publisher Edwin Morris originally owned this. It was a sizeable speculative house built in the Southridge subdivision. Kaptur added a carport and covered walkway, among other changes. It was sold to Steve McQueen in 1969, who had it until his death in 1980. It is 4,493 square feet with 4 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms. Neighbors were Bob Hope and William Holden. The exterior is a joining of two glass boxes framed in steel, while walls of glass windows open up the space and provide spectacular views of the desert valley, the surrounding mountains, and the lights of the city. The interior is complete with cypress paneling, a floating staircase, and a three-stall carport.

Hugh Kaptur Steve McQueen Residence

Thomas Griffin Residence: 1964, 521 W. Via Lola

This is a large 5,922 square foot home with 5 bedrooms and 6 baths in the Old Las Palmas neighborhood. It sits on 1/2 acre of land. The focus for the home is its spectacular pool/spa and sundecks with mountain views, accessed from every main room.

Hugh Kaptur Griffin Residence

 Casa Blanca Motor Hotel: 1967, 1342 South Palm Canyon Drive

Now Musicland Hotel, it has 43 guest rooms.

Hugh Kaptur-musicland hotel

Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort Clubhouse: 1967, 1885 Golf Club Drive.

It is considered a Pueblo-inspired modernist architecture style. The shape is similar to the Pearl Harbor Memorial. The course was originally opened on October 18, 1959. The clubhouse was dedicated on November 2, 1967.  Large beams set at angles give the restaurant roof the curve of a golfer’s swing. At the top, clerestory windows flood the interior with light. A breezeway roof connects the restaurant to the pro shop. It too has windows open to the sky to the let the desert light in, but still provide plenty of shade.

“Since the clubhouse was in the direct flight path of airliners landing in Palm Springs, the roof was as important to me during the design as the elevations. I wanted it to look clean and efficient.”   – Hugh M. Kaptur

Hugh Kaptur Tahquitz Creek Golf Club house

Palm Springs Fire Station #4: 1971, 1300 S La Verne Way

Hugh Kaptur Fire Station 4

Platt and Welmas Condominiums: 1973.

Now called the Casa Sonora Condominiums, the 60 unit complex is located by the Saguaro Hotel. It sits on leased land.

Hugh Kaptur Casa Sonora Condo

Smoke Tree Racquet Club: 1793 – 1975, 1650 E. Palm Canyon

A 128-unit condo community near Smoke Tree Ranch.

Hugh Kaptur Smoke Tree Racquet Club Condos

The William Holden House: 1977, 2433 Southridge Drive

This Southridge home combined a concrete foundation, creating a building platform on a steep site, with a wood post and beam structure. Holden lived there until his death in 1981. Fantastic architectural detail including soaring ceilings, floor to ceiling windows, oversized formal spaces as well as a lavish Master suite with dual-sided fireplace and extraordinary walk-in closet/dressing room. The vast decking and verandas provide for the most exhilarating views of Palm Springs and beyond. This large 6,657 square foot home has 5 bedrooms and 6 baths. It sits on 3.71 acres.

Hugh Kaptur William Holden House

Hugh Kaptur William Holden House2

Canyon East and West Estates Condominiums: 1978

Palm Villas: 1979

An 88-condo-unit community near Cielo Road.

palm-villas-condos-Hugh Kaptur

Tahquitz Plaza: 1974 – 1977, 600 – 700 East Tahquitz Canyon Way

The firm Kaptur-Lapham designed this in two stages in 1974 and Hugh Kaptur in 1977. This is now a Class 1 Historic Site and a thorough refresh was performed involving Kaptur himself. It is an important and largely intact example of a desert modernist commercial structure.

Hugh Kaptur tahquitz plaza building 2

Al Anderson Residence: 1978, 899 E. Granvia Valmonte

Sited on two lots purchased from Bob and Dolores Hope in the heart of the Movie Colony and roughly .62 of an acre. This home blends the classic California Ranch with the dynamic details of post and beam architecture. The shaker shingle roof is juxtaposed against spider legs, and the interior features vaulted ceilings with wood tongue and groove. Most of the original details are intact, and the home features 3 bedrooms in the main house and a separate casita offering fantastic separation of space.

Hugh Kaptur Al Anderson Residence

Rancho El Mirador Condominiums: 1983, 291 E Mel Avenue

It was built on the grounds of the original El Mirador Hotel, now Desert Regional Hospital. 61 condo units.

Hugh Kaptur Rancho El Mirado Condo

The Deauville Condominiums: 1985, East Amado Road and El Segundo

It is located adjacent to the Agua Caliente Casino. It includes 168 units.

Hugh Kaptur Deauville Condos

Villa Caballeros Condos: 1985, 255 S Avenida Caballeros

This is a 59 unit gated complex with a swimming pool, spa, tennis court, indoor racquetball court, and community room.

Hugh Kaptur Villa Caballeros Condos

Villa Serena Apartments: 1980, 900 East Saturnino Road

This was originally an adults only complex and came in one to three bedrooms. While many articles note this was built in 1986, however, the Desert Sun was advertising these units in 1980 and permits were issued in 1979.

Paul Selzer House: 1988, 38727 Maracaibo Circle West

Paul was an environmental lawyer. He and his wife met with Kaptur’s and asked him to design a Mediterranean-French Provincial style home featuring stucco and tile. The staggered pyramidal roof line with twin pyramids, clad with lightweight concrete roof tiles, define the structure while offering stunning interior spaces. Each pyramid has functional skylights that open allowing the air to vortex up through the house mimicking the airflow of a fireplace. Sculptured tapering chimneys add a vertical statement to the roof line that calls to discerning enthusiasts. There is a third smaller open beamed pyramid placed over the entry setting the tone as you enter the home.

This is a spacious 4,824 square foot home with 4 bedrooms and 5 baths. It’s located off Bogert Trail in south Palm Springs.

Hugh Kaptur Selzer House

 Villa Boutique Apartment Homes: 2002, 1700 South Araby Drive

Located by Araby Cove.

Hugh Kaptur Villa Boutique Apartment Homes

Kaptur Court: 2016, 262 West Vista Chino

These is three single family homes designed by Kaptur at age 85. He took his 1950 designs and updated them. Featuring post & beam construction, and a butterfly roofline. Sitting on a large 1/3 acre lot in the exclusive neighborhood of Little Tuscany on fee simple land, Kaptur Court features just under 2,200 SF, 3 Bedroom, 3 Bath, open living room, dining room and social gourmet kitchen showcasing custom cabinetry, and quartz countertops. Other classic elements are high angled wood beamed ceilings, clerestory windows, Italian terrazzo flooring and a spacious breakfast-nook with mountain and pool views. The wall and gated private entertainers yard features a 40′ lap pool.  Hugh Kaptur Court

Kaptur didn’t receive much credit in the early years. Most of the Palm Springs architects didn’t.

“The time of Bill Cody and myself and Clark, Frey & Chambers and Williams, Williams & Williams, architects weren’t really much appreciated. We did buildings, people needed us, you know, but it wasn’t like doctors or lawyers — we were like used car salesmen,” Kaptur said. “We never got much recognition and never in our wildest dreams would be get recognition. But back about 15, 20 years ago, the gay community really came and took an interest in the historic values of architecture, and that’s what started it.”

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