Wexler Harrison Steel House No. 4 sold in Palm Springs

January 14th, 2014 | by Dominique Fong | Comments

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The iconic Steel Development House No. 4 in north Palm Springs has been sold for $653,500, real estate agent Gary Johns of the Paul Kaplan Group confirmed Tuesday.

The house had been on the market since November and was originally listed for $689,000. The buyers paid all cash for the home and within 10 days closed in escrow on Friday, said Johns, who represented the seller. The home was previously not available for sale for the last seven years. Leonardo Montenegro of Prudential California Realty represented the buyers.

Renowned midcentury architects Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison designed the 1,477-square-foot house as part of a tract project in the Racquet Club Estates neighborhood.

Original plans called for 38 nearly all-steel prefab homes. Wexler and Harrison had intended the homes to be affordable. Galvanized steel panels were prefabricated in Los Angeles and assembled on site.

Only seven were made. A spike in steel prices caused the builder, the Alexander Construction Company, to cancel the project sponsored by U.S. Steel. The homes largely fell into disrepair and were forgotten until the 1990s. Six of the seven have been fully restored.

“There’s no question that these seven homes have really cemented and reinforced the midcentury modern pedigree of architecture,” said Johns, an agent who specializes in representing midcentury, modern and architectural homes.

The seven homes are noted for their novel construction materials, airy rooms and simple design, hallmarks of Wexler’s style. The homes are made entirely of steel, except for the foundation, plumbing and electrical wires. Each home has a slight variation of these elements.

House No. 4, built in 1962, features two bedrooms and two bathrooms that were upgraded to include modern fixtures. The exterior sheeting, roof and interior framing are made of steel. Wexler expanded the eaves to shade the windows from glaring sunlight.

Wexler has gained more recognition in recent years for his work. In 2011, the Palm Springs Art Museum hosted a retrospective exhibit on Wexler.

“In the last three or four years, Wexler has really come into his own, and all of his designs, and all of his work, and all of his homeowners have become almost like a bit of a fraternity,” Johns said.

In 2001, the City of Palm Springs designated the seven steel houses as Class 1 Historic Sites. In 2012, Steel Development House No. 2 was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the first midcentury building in Palm Springs to receive the designation.

Johns is involved with numerous architectural societies, including leadership positions on the Palm Springs Historic Site Preservation Board, the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation and Modernism Week. He also organizes an architectural tour on a double-decker bus that stops between House No. 3 and 4 during Modernism Week, when a tour guide educates visitors about the history of the steel homes, he said.

Business and real estate reporter Dominique Fong can be reached at (760) 778-4661, dominique.fong@thedesertsun.com and on Twitter @dominiquefong.

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