In contrast to the 25 guest accommodations at L’Horizon, The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn is a Mediterranean villa of just eight rooms within walking distance of downtown Palm Springs. The similarities lie in the exclusivity of the two and their celebrated histories. Cloistered behind mature tropical gardens, The Willows estate can barely be seen from the dead-end street leading to it, and access is available through a guests-only gate. The mansion was built in 1925 as the winter retreat of a Los Angeles millionaire, William Mead, who commissioned architect William J. Dodd. Its guest list over the years included such luminaries as Albert Einstein, Marion Davies and Shirley Temple.
The individually decorated rooms retain period elements such as mahogany-beamed ceilings and natural stone fireplaces. In 2013, I was fortunate to stay in the Library Room, where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard honeymooned. The junior suite-like room contained an ornately carved antique writing desk, king-size bed, gas fireplace and capacious closet. Unusually, the room has its original bath, including a reglazed vintage tub and separate tiled shower. The private patio’s two cushioned loungers proved ideal for napping, accompanied by the soothing rush of a nearby waterfall. The breakfast room, however, with its colorfully painted ceiling, has the best views of this extravagant man-made water feature. In the adjacent lounge, which also appears not to have changed much in the past 90 years, guests gather each evening around the fireplace for complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres, giving the occasion the feel of a congenial house party.
The property has a swimming pool, lovely gardens and scenic pathways, but it lacks a spa, fitness center and full-time restaurant. Those willing to forgo these amenities will find an atmosphere of gracious tranquility. The inn recently marked its 90th anniversary with the release of “Einstein Dreamt Here,” a book chronicling The Willows and its illustrious history. The inn is closed June through August.