borrego modern


Over the years information is lost to history - some of it important, some not. In the Borrego Valley, there are many buildings where the names of designers and builders have been lost - at least temporarily. As more research is done, we hope to put names and faces to the mid-century modern legacy of the community.

Desert Club - 1949

The Desert Club was part of the vision of developer A.A. Burnand, founder of the Borrego Springs Community Association. Burnand, along with his partners, desired to create the ideal desert community, one that was "…protected from becoming a hodge-podge of desert shacks." To control growth and development, the Community Association initiated deed restrictions on properties that defined what could and could not be built, somewhat of a revolutionary idea in 1949. It was, in many ways, the most effective means of controlling development at the local level. Borrego Springs is an unincorporated area of San Diego County, and as such, County regulations (or lack of them) also define development in the Valley.

The Desert Club opened in 1950, and included as its members the most prominent citizens of Borrego Springs. While the Desert Club was the first golf course development in Borrego Springs, it would soon be eclipsed by the development of deAnza Country Club in the northern part of the Borrego Valley.

The course was never fully completed and membership waned following the opening of de Anza Country Club. The acreage set aside for future development of home sites would be sold off in 1964. In 1968 the three acres and building that had been the clubhouse was sold to Robert and Sophia Schepe who opened the "Galleria de Anza Borrego", an art studio and antique store that was in business for more than 35 years.

There have been few alterations to the over the years, although living quarters were installed in some of the clubs offices and rooms. The building's defining corner glass windows remain with a sweeping view of the valley. The 1951 cocktail bar renovation by Richard Zerbe is also intact. In 2005 (two days after closing escrow) John Scranton, the present owner, opened the building to the public for the first time in nearly a decade. Many in the community turned out as part of the first mid-century modernism tour sponsored by Save Our Heritage Organisation and the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce. Since then restoration of the building has been underway. Since then, the present owner has been working to restore the site to its former prominence. As of this writing the architect/builder remain a mystery although Phil Brigandi suspects a La Jolla builder of the period is responsible for the design.


Borrego Palms Resort (1958) (The Palms at Indian Head)

Built in 1947, Hoberg's Desert Resort was the Borrego's Valley's largest and most important resort to capitalize on the growing tourism business associated with the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. After a series of ownership changes through the 1950's, it was renamed the Borrego Palms Resort. On April 22, 1958 a gas hot water heater above the beauty shop exploded, the resulting fire gutting the main building. It was reported in the Borrego Sun that the flames lit up the Valley floor. 1

The Resort was able to re-open a month later, moving the offices, lobby and coffee shop into an existing small building near the pool. The resort had a large number of rooms that were in cabins and outbuildings that survived the fire. For the resort to continue long term, the owners committed to rebuilding the main building. This time it would be in a modern design, the contract for construction being awarded to local builder Hal Martinez. There is speculation about who may have designed the building, however at the present time there are no known records to collaborate who is the designer.


1 Brigandi, Borrego Beginnings, Page 96

The present owners purchased the resort in 1994 and began renovations. At the time the building had been largely abandoned. Today it retains many of its original features, including terrazzo floors and expanses of glass with spectacular views and one of the largest pools in the Valley.