This Palm Springs Inn Is Chock-full of History, Charm and Hospitality
Written By: Patricia Kemp
Photography Provided By: The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn
Waterfalls, hummingbirds and fuchsia flowers—these are the magic markings that lead the way to The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn. A step inside the massive mahogany double doors opens a world where enchantment awaits and time stands still. Shrouded in secrecy and tucked away in the secluded mountainside, passers may not realize this hillside hideaway even exists. But many famous faces—from screen legend Clark Gable to novelist Upton Sinclair—found their way here for a winter escape. Today, you’ll still find old-world elegance and warmth from the wrought-iron chandeliers and limestone fireplaces, but with modern touches that beautifully blend the Roaring ‘20s’ past with the present. We got an exclusive look inside one of Palm Springs’ most storied luxury hotels courtesy of VisitPalmSprings.com.
A Tale of Two Houses Willows Historic Palm Springs
If The Willows feels like you’ve been welcomed for a weekend to a dear friend’s estate, that’s because, in a way, you are. The inn was converted from twin homes of two best friends and wealthy magnates, William Mead and Roland Bishop. After Mead’s death, The Willows was purchased by Samuel Untermyer, who owned it for several years. The current owners, Tracy Conrad and Paul Marut, purchased the property in the ‘90s and breathed new life into the inn. The pair meticulously restored the matching Mediterranean-style villas, which retain the same common spaces in the drawing rooms and dining rooms but gave each of the half dozen private guest suites a complete makeover. Well almost—new upgrades like steam showers and claw-foot slipper tubs make this a luxury hotel by today’s standards, but antique relics reflect its golden age.
Einstein Dreamt Here Willows Historic Palm Springs
Novelists, screenwriters, politicians and titans of industries have all visited The Willows, but perhaps its most well-known guest is scientist Dr. Albert Einstein. There’s even a guest room named after the famed Nobel Prize winner, and innkeepers have noted that guests said they feel a bit smarter waking up here in the morning. The art deco room features two sets of French doors that open to a private patio for sunbathing—one of Dr. Einstein’s favorite ways to spend a sunny afternoon.
Native Knowledge: Conrad and co-author Steve Vaught wrote “Einstein Dreamt Here,” which archives the history with vintage photos of The Willows and its famous visitors—like Dr. Einstein—who graced the halls. Ask an innkeeper to borrow a copy of the book from the library for a fascinating read during your stay.
Good Night Guests Willows Historic Palm Springs
From the masculine Library Room to the feminine Marion Davies Room, each guest suite is immaculate and stunningly unique. The Rock Room was built around a massive boulder in the bathroom, bringing the outside in for a hot rocks spa feel. Ascend to the Loft Room by climbing a secret staircase for sweeping mountain views. At night when you step away to enjoy the sunset, innkeepers discreetly come in for turn-down bed service and leave gourmet chocolate on your pillow. Sweet dreams, indeed!
Native Knowledge: From Dr. Einstein to Hollywood screenwriter Paul Thomas Anderson, many found inspiration here. Anderson holed himself up in the Library Room for several weeks where he wrote a script that would go on to earn him an Academy Award nomination for the 2007 film There Will Be Blood.
Every morning the staff prepares a three-course breakfast with coffee or tea to help ease you into your day. Guests are welcome to dine in the formal dining room (overlooking a natural spring waterfall) or in the privacy of your room. In the early evening, the same hospitality is shown with wine and hors d’oeuvres.
Native Knowledge: Menus change daily, but if you’re lucky to land on the day innkeepers serve the stuffed French toast, you’re in for a sweet morning delight! In the evening, mingle with other guests during cocktail hour in the drawing room with a grand piano and swap stories of your travels.
With much attention to detail, the pool and spa were restored to its original glory. Open 24 hours, guests can swim and sunbathe throughout the day and soak away stress in the spa during those chilly desert nights under the stars.
Throughout the property, you’ll encounter hidden paths that wind up the mountain. It was here Dr. Einstein would climb to enjoy the quiet solitude, and a bench rests in his honor. There’s no map and no destination. The joy of the journey is getting lost in thought along the way to catch a glimpse of the sunset. Eventually, when you’re ready, you’ll find your way home.
The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn
412 W Tahquitz Canyon Way
Palm Springs, CA 92262