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Borrego's Modern future lies in its past

Borrego Sun Editorial, May 2, 2009

The third tour focused on Borrego's mid-century modern residential architecture brought a whopping 275 people to the valley April 24-25, many of whom had never visited here before and were reportedly blown away by the valley's dramatic desert setting and the historic uniqueness of the carefully designed built environment.

Borrego Modern III was packed with visitors from Los Angeles, San Diego, Palm Springs, San Francisco and from as far away as Idaho. These architecture aficionados put value on the 1950s-1970s modern design that embraces the connection between the indoor and outdoor living space with minimalist techniques. That technique was showcased with the opening of six local homes designed by architects William Kesling, Henry Hester, William Krisel, William Perry and Richard Zerbe. The architect of one tour residence, built in 1956 as one of the first homes at de Anza Country Club, is still unknown.

Tour attendees were equally as excited to just drive by the valley's Cliff May homes and to see the modern architecture evident in many of downtown's buildings from the closed Borrego Valley Foods store (built in 1949) to the Borrego Appliance building (1961) to the 1947 Quonset hut that until recently was home of the Red Ocotillo. What to some locals could be considered eyesores are actually hidden architectural gems that could put Borrego Springs on the map as a mid-century modern hamlet.

Borregans interested in increasing tourism, promoting the valley and keeping Borrego's small-town charm, should pay attention to the interest in this unique style of architecture. The tour coordinators pointed out that the declining economy has taken a toll on the number of people coming out for historical home tours in larger regions. In fact, the Save Our Heritage Organisation was hoping for just 100 people for last weekend's Borrego event. With the turnout almost triple that expectation, the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce should be hightailing it to promote Borrego mid-century modern history to the masses and to educate locals on its appeal.

There should be no more debate about what Borrego's style is and what it should be. Borrego Springs is modern and modern is the new desert chic.

© Borrego Sun, April 2009

2009 - Volume 40, Issue 1

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