borrego modern

As one of San Diego's premier modernist architects, Henry Hester's designs are described as "clean and straight". His two Borrego Springs projects evoke similar descriptions.

Born in 1925 in Oklahoma, Hester moved to San Diego with his family as a youth. He attended Roosevelt High School and Brown Military Academy before serving in the Coast Guard during World War II. In 1947, he graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in architecture and moved to La Jolla. Early mentors of Hester include William Cody of Palm Springs and San Diego's own pioneering mid-century modernist, Lloyd Ruocco. Over the year's Hester would form partnerships with Fred Liebhardt (1957); Ronald K. Davis (1958-1959); William Cody (1958-1960) and Robert E. Jones (1960-1967).1

One of Hester's most notable San Diego designs is the Solomon Apartments (1958) on Sixth Avenue across from Balboa Park. When the complex opened it was marketed as San Diego's "Most Distinguished Place to Live".

1 Henry Hester,

With a career spanning four decades, Hester received numerous local and national awards from the American Institute of Architects although he remained an "intensely private man".

"He was proud of his custom residences and of being an independent person, his own man", said his wife Nancy. "He did it his way" 2

In 2006, Hester died at the age of 81. He was described by fellow modernist Hal Sadler as:

"In many ways Henry was an architect's architect. He loved detail and design. Above all, he was a special guy". 3
De Anza Country Club - Givler Residence

2 Williams, Jack, Henry Hester, 81; 'An architects' architect' known for clean lines. San Diego Union-Tribune, November 4, 2006
3 Williams, Jack, Henry Hester, 81; 'An architects' architect' known for clean lines. San Diego Union-Tribune, November 4, 2006

This home on the 12th green is striking in its geometry and proportion. Designed for David Givler it is one of three "first" homes to be built at de Anza Desert Country Club. Initially the home was used as a winter residence only. The winter months are Borrego Springs' "on" season.

The home is painted its original black color, which was used to absorb the winter sun's warmth and radiate it back into the living space. The home is small in square footage with one bedroom and one bath, yet speaks volumes about the interaction between the interior and the exterior natural environment. The house is laid out in an "I" shape with kitchen on one end and bedroom on the other. A corridor of floor to ceiling glass becomes the central living space and is open to expansive views of the golf course on one side and the natural beauty of the desert on the other. The building also holds an interior courtyard shielded from public view. The main house is also joined on the property with a detached one bedroom, one bath, guesthouse that also features an interior courtyard.

Although changes have been made in the home, it retains much of its original fabric. The home's previous owners added air conditioning, taking care not to interrupt the lines of the home, essential to year-round desert living. The kitchen is original although in the 1980's new flooring was added.
In 2005 the then owners described living in the home as:
"Truly an exercise in minimalism. The best part is it offers floor to ceiling contact with the outdoors. It allows you to enjoy acres of golf course. It encourages you to enjoy all the land around it, not just the interior. It feels like it is a huge house because of the connection to the outdoors."
Borrego Springs Park - Borrego Springs Resort (1963)

Following the success at de Anza, San Diego developer and builder John Anderson took the next step towards development of a second golf course resort in the Borrego Valley - the purchase in April of 1961 of the Ensign Ranch for a reported $1,450,000. 4 Initial plans called for development of a 1,200 acre senior community with a public golf course, final development would be a total 4,000 home sites.
The Ensign Ranch had been one of Borrego's oldest and best known landmarks. It was the site of San Diego County's only commercial date farm. 5

In March of 1962, the ranch was sold again, this time to Irvin Kahn and Carlos Tavares who headed up the Borrego Springs Park Corporation. Many of the original projects investors were folded into this group of owners. Both Kahn and Tavares are well known San Diego developers - Tavares partnered with Lou Burgener in the development of Clairemont. Kahn was responsible for the development of University City. Lou Burgener's brother Clair handled both the sale and purchase. Clair Burgener was active in Borrego Springs real estate, having at the time one of the largest real estate offices in the Valley. (Clair Burgener, a Republican, represented San Diego in Congress from 1972-1982). Lou Burgener was also a member of de Anza Country Club and had built a home there. The Borrego Sun reported in April of 1962: "a master land use plan for development of the acreage is now being drafted by Kenneth Mitchell of Los Angeles, former head planner or the Los Angeles FHA office…An 18 hole golf course is being designed by Billy Bell Jr."

4 Borrego Sun, May, 1961, Page 1
5 The palm trees that surround the development are those from the original Ensign Ranch having been transplanted by the developers.

In a front page, July 1963 Borrego Sun article, Henry Hester and the partnership of Hester and Jones is mentioned as architects on the first homes and clubhouse. The homes are modular steel - and built by a subsidiary of the Rohr Aircraft Corporation;

"Officers of the company have announced that they have contracted with Modular Components Inc. of Riverside, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rohr Aircraft Corp for delivery of 140 of the company's revolutionary modular component houses.

Unlike the earlier pre-finished houses the Rohr house is adaptable to a wide variety of architectural designs. The homes for Borrego Springs Park have been designed by Hester, Jones and Associates, AIA, of La Jolla.

Henry Hester, who admits that as an architect he is not a "fan" of manufactured homes, has nothing but praise for the Rohr product. He believes it is especially suited for the desert because of kits heavy insulation in wall and ceiling panels and the durability of its color-impregnated exterior.

Design details of the clubhouse to serve the golf course have been virtually completed by Hester & Jones. This will be a 10,000 square foot building with dining room, cocktail bar, lounge, men's and women's locker rooms, swimming pool and recreational area for volleyball, shuffleboard, etc.

Also nearing completion is design of a California mission style entranceway to the project at Titling T and Borrego Valley Road."

Construction for the first apartment units (now Club Circle) began in April of 1964. The following month the first family moved into the area. The clubhouse opened in December of 1964. In January of 1965, Tavares buys out the interests of Irvin Kahn and construction is set to start on 200 "tri-zone and duo-zone" units' "The tri-zone and duo-zone units Stenwick (resident manager of the project) described as essentially single family dwellings which can be closed off to make one or two rental units in addition to the owner's dwelling space…These new units will be built at Rohr Aircraft's Modular Components division and will be erected on the site east of the clubhouse." 6

However in late 1964, early 1965, the financing of the Borrego Springs Park Development Company unravels. The County Marshall, in a bankruptcy proceeding, padlocked the Hester & Jones clubhouse. The golf course and clubhouse would then sit vacant - for 34 years. In 1991, John & Bill Cameron (Cameron Brothers Construction Company) purchased the property and began a $100 million dollar project to restore the course and clubhouse, to build a new hotel and develop senior housing. John Cameron says when they bought the clubhouse "the ceiling was on the floor" and "We redid the clubhouse just as it was. We liked it when we were here many years ago (John Cameron was attending a conference of the San Diego General Contractors Association when the Marshall padlocked the building) and we didn't want to modernize it with pink paint". 7

6 Borrego Sun, Borrego Springs Park Construction Continues. January, 1956
7 San Diego Union Tribune, Seff, Marsha K., Country-club Restoration has gone a Fair Ways February 2, 1977, H1.