Sedately luxurious—that was the phrase the New York Times used to describe The Willow Palm Springs Inn, the iconic celebrity hideaway located on a Palm Springs mountaintop. The Times had it right, the lushly landscaped Mediterranean-style retreat possesses a quiet elegance that removes itself from the frenetic energy surrounding modern-day LA. While it was built nearly 90 years ago for millionaire William Mead, a prominent Los Angeles business man and real estate developer, The Willow Palm Springs has maintained its lovely stature. During the 1930s The Willows became a place of rejuvenation for some of the era’s most notable figures. Albert Einstein, for which one of the rooms is now named, stayed there many times and even claimed a favorite garden bench which still sits overlooking the inn’s grounds. Dimple-cheeked Shirley Temple and silent film great, Marion Davies stayed at the inn while Clark Gable and his wife Carole Lombard spent part of their honeymoon at The Willows in order to avoid the press.
While the rich mahogany doors, hand carved limestone and Spanish tiles Mead originally chose for his home remain, the historic retreat has been modernized: flat screen televisions, DVD players and WIFI access are available in all of the rooms. Yet despite some technological upgrades, the intimately sized inn, with just eight chambers, has kept faithful to the spirit of the home. The rooms are outfitted with fireplaces and private balconies, tandem claw foot tubs and period-appropriate fainting couches. When construction began in 1924, the home was built on a hilltop overlooking the grounds’ beautifully landscaped gardens, winding rock pathways and 50-foot waterfall. The property also includes a heated pool and Jacuzzi where today’s guests are supplied with ice tea and towels.
Photo Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Visitors with an interest in Old Hollywood may wish to stay in the Marion Davies Room, which was named for the popular silent film actress who leased the home during the 1950’s. Aside from being a talented performer and one of the richest women in the world during the fifties (She built The Davies Building in New York, which would cost $90 million if constructed today), Marion Davies was also a skillful entrepreneur. However, her relationship with multi-millionaire William Hearst often overshadowed Davies’ true legacy. Current owner Tray Conrad said, “What many people don’t realize is that Marion Davies was a brilliant business woman. Her name and reputation will always be linked with Hollywood, of course, but more often it’s associated with Hearst.”
Inside the inn, her room features an elaborately carved king-sized bed, large fireplace and a balcony with a view of the San Jacinto Mountains. However, before retreating to The Willows, Davies lived in Beverly Hills. In the mid-1920’s Hearst purchased a mansion there for Davies, a woman he was fiercely possessive of. But because she was his mistress, it was bought in the name of Davies’ mother, Rose. For those who really want to channel the colorful life the actress led, Davies' Beverly Hills home can be leased for $600,000 a month. However, if you are perhaps looking for something a bit more economical, the rooms at The Willows start at $325 a night and include a three-course gourmet breakfast as well as evening wine and hors d’oeuvres. The grounds are also a lovely setting for weddings which includes the option of combining event space with the nearby O’Donnell House with its pretty desert gardens and verandas.