B-Bar-H dates back to 1927, when Hollywood film mogul Lucien Hubbard and his son-in-law, Charles Bender, purchased 240 acres from Southern Pacific Land Co. Among the stone structures built by Bender is one Mary Pickford used as a ranch house; another served as her chauffeurs cottage. Originally enjoyed by Hubbard and his friends, the ranch opened to the public in 1937.
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According to Palm Springs Historical Society records, ranch guests included many celebrities from the Golden Age of Hollywood: Bob Hope, Ray Milland, Bing Crosby, Ronald Coleman, Tyrone Power, Joan Crawford, Lionel Barrymore, Irene Dunne, Eleanor Powell, Olivia de Havilland, Joan Fontaine, Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich, Robert Taylor, Joseph Selznick, and Darryl Zanuck. Newspaper clippings from the mid-1940s mention gymkhana events that included not only calf roping and horse races (saddle and bareback), but also broomstick polo. At a Thanksgiving holiday gymkhana, guest Peter Lorre (there with his wife and acting couple Phil Harris and Alice Faye) served as honorary arena director.
Bodon was attracted to property that was part of the original 240 acres by Desert Hot Springs land prices, not B-Bar-H history. His goal was “to build cool houses.”
Growing up in a midcentury modern classic Alexander home, Bodon always appreciated its architecture. Then, when planning to build homes in the desert five years ago, he lived near Donald Wexlers steel “Case Study Homes” in north Palm Springs. “I was inspired by those,” Bodon says.
Despite the popularity of midcentury modern architecture, the initial reaction to the Desert Hot Springs homes surprised him. At the Palm Springs Modernism Show two years ago, Modern Living Spaces ran a small ad in the program and handed out flyers at the door. “That weekend, we had 200 people come into the model,” Bodon recalls, still sounding surprised, “and we couldnt answer all the calls.
“Almost everyone has an interest in design or architecture.”