borrego modern


"A unique floor plan taking advantage of the adaptability of unit masonry to curved services. The doughnut shaped plan provides maximum protection to the circular interior patio. The plan is open to the view and takes advantage of the green expanse of the driving range.

The locking arrangement of doors D, K and C permits renting the building as a one bedroom house, a two bedroom house, a one bedroom studio apartment, a one bedroom sleep room or any combination of the latter." 14

Although altered, the home retains its "doughnut" shape and offers spectacular views of the mountains beyond the driving range from the patio. The two other homes designed for Dr. Petit contained indoor lap pools that were contiguous with the living room. Betty Zerbe recalls that he went to great lengths to design an interior environment so the lap pools wouldn't "sweat." 15

14 Zerbe Architectural Records
15 Borrego Sun, Obituary, January 13, 1999
Additional Borrego Springs Residential Design

Lewis Chapel & Guest House (1968)

This home was originally constructed in 1953 by contractor Donald H. Castle for Opera Star Madame Amelita Galli-Curci and her husband Homer Samuels who came to Borrego after seeing a television program about the Valley in San Diego. In an interview with the Borrego Sun, Galli-Curci said of the valley "During our musical career we have had the opportunity to travel the world many times. We are not stretching the truth when we say Borrego Springs is one of the most beautiful spots we have ever seen. The closest to it is Africa in the Valley of a Thousand Hills" 16 Galli-Curci and her husband also maintained a home in La Jolla, where she died in 1963. The Borrego Springs home was purchased by Dr Minott Lewis and his wife Mildred who were disciples and close friends of Paramahansa Yogananda founder of the Self Realization Fellowship. It was at the Fellowship's prominent Hermitage and Meditation Gardens on the ocean in Encinitas, CA where Yogananda lived and wrote "Autobiography of a Yogi".17 Borrego Springs was also a desert spiritual retreat for Dr. James Lynn, another disciple and friend of Yogananda and officer of the Fellowship who purchased the 600+ acre "Lynn Ranch" with the idea to grow crops that would feed the members of the SRF nationwide. 18 (Zerbe's Projects List includes the Ranch House for the Lynn ranch). The Self Realization Fellowship has an interesting relationship to Borrego Springs, in that the desert community has offered a desert contrast to the Self Realization's coastal center in Encinitas. In 1968, Lewis' widow contracted with Dick Zerbe to design and build a chapel to honor her late husband.

"A unique shape made possible by the flexibility of unit masonry. This small private chapel is an auxiliary building to a small desert retreat originally designed for one time opera star Amelita Galli-Curci. The chapel serves a sect which combines some ideas of Christianity with those of some philosophies of India. It is a very special purpose building which must be entered to be appreciated.

16 Borrego Sun, December, 1952
17 Self Realization Fellowship Web site: http://www.yogananda-srf.org/temples/encinitas/index.html
18 Brigandi, Phil; Borrego Beginnings, pages 86-87

Designed and constructed for a widow as a memorial to her husband who retired from dentistry to become a spiritual and temporal leader of the sect." 19

In addition to the Chapel, Zerbe also designed an additional guest room for the home, which was frequented by actors Dennis Weaver and James Arness both of whom starred in the television western, "Gunsmoke". The Chapel's stained glass is the work of artist James Hubbell.
The home today remains a spiritual retreat in the desert for members of the Self Realization Fellowship


19 Zerbe Architectural Records

Resorts & Motels

When Dick Zerbe first came to Borrego, he found work at the Desert Lodge, one of the two resorts then in Borrego (the other being Hoberg's). It was at the Desert Lodge, for Bud Kuhrts, that he worked as a wrangler and also handyman, builder and designer. At the Desert Lodge Zerbe designed several remodels and additions including a conference room and bar renovation. When Kuhrts sold the Desert Lodge to San Diego Union Publisher James Copley's MACOP Corporation, Zerbe was hired to do an extensive remodel of the Desert Lodge, which reopened as La Casa Del Zorro. Among the work at La Casa Del Zorro was the Fox Den Lounge, additional private cottages and a series of motel rooms on the grounds. This was a substantial project for Zerbe. He also designed several motels in the area, including:

Guppy Motel Addition and Pool 1952-53 (Later renamed Stanlunds-Still Standing)

Molino Verde Motel (1958)

Located on the site of the original homestead of Borrego pioneer Doc Beaty, the Motel was built for Ben Audette across from the present Airport. Audette also developed the airports' first restaurant The Luau. The fireplace from the Beaty home was used as a poolside barbeque. The motel was demolished in the late 1980's.

Desert Club Remodel (early 1950's)

While not a major project but one prominent in the Borrego Springs social community was the early 1950's remodel of the Desert Club. The centerpiece of Zerbe's design is a sunken, semi-circular bar that capitalizes on the spectacular views from the building's glass corner. His wife Betty recalls that it was extremely time consuming and difficult to make as she was the one who had to attach and stitch the red vinyl upholstery into place. The bar remains today and since renovation of the building by the present owner, has served the community on several occasions. Many long time Borrego Springs residents fondly remember the parties and gatherings at the Desert Club, in which the bar prominently was featured.

Changing the Face of Main Street Borrego

Palm Canyon Drive, is the "Main Street" of Borrego Springs. While it extends several miles, the business community is concentrated in the area from the entrance of the Anza Borrego State Park in the west to Christmas Circle to the east. Along this stretch, Richard Zerbe designs are prominent.

Hacienda Del Sol (1956, 1958 & 1960)

The Hacienda del Sol was the first motel in the town portion of Borrego Springs and was originally built in 1947 by Herb and Charlotte Haughton . It was sold in the early 1950's to William Furlong who contracted with Dick Zerbe to design additional rooms and the present façade along Palm Canyon Drive.

This was a second commercial project that Dick Zerbe designed for William Furlong, who owned the adjoining Hacienda Del Sol.

El Patio Retails Stores (1961)

This was a second commercial project that Dick Zerbe designed for William Furlong, who owned the adjoining Hacienda Del Sol.

El Patio featured small shops in addition to office space for Carlson Corey Real Estate, at the time one of the largest real estate firms in the Valley. Originally the project envisioned housing some 30 stores and 15 offices.