As I said goodbye to my lunch guest, a man suddenly appeared at the poolside entrance to our rented Palm Springs condo.
“Would you ladies like a tour of the Gloria Swanson residence? It’s right across the street.”
Well, yes. Yes we would!
A few minutes later we were standing in Gloria Swanson’s bedroom, stage center inside the historic Amin Casa Hotel in Palm Springs – once the desert home of the much-adored screen legend.
Our journey had begun unexpectedly when the Amin Casa’s friendly manager, Kelvin, approached us while we chatting under a pool-side grapefruit tree in the yard of our mid-century vacation rental on Arenas Road in the Historic Tennis Club neighborhood.
Little did we know that this encounter would lead us to a detailed exploration of the very rooms that once sheltered a Hollywood legend and her paramour Joseph Kennedy. (Rumor has it that the mogul may have even built the place for his lover).
Within minutes of meeting our new friend we were we were literally standing in Gloria Swanson’s bedroom hearing tales of the hotel’s illustrious past, including a ghost story hinting at her sustained presence on the property
Before delving into our delightful experience, let me provide you with a brief background on the hotel.
Amin Casa prides itself on offering guests a luxurious home away from home. The moment you step foot on the property, you are captivated by the relaxing lounge-like atmosphere and the genuine, heartfelt hospitality of the owners and staff.
1920s era photo of Gloria Swanson residence being built on Arenas Road in Palm Springs
Our journey eventually led us through various beautiful guest cottages, perfectly manicured lawns with citrus trees and those cactus plants dating back to the 1920s and, finally, to that aforementioned master bedroom.
It was fun to think about Swanson, an icon of the golden age of cinema, once walking through these very rooms.
And it was in this very bedroom in which we now stood that she likely shared moments with Joseph Kennedy, the patriarch of the influential Kennedy family. (And father of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy).
Swanson, often referred to as the “Queen of Hollywood,” was a trailblazer in the film industry. By the time her silent film career ended – largely putting an end to her intial super stardom as she had known it – she was worth a cool $5 million. That’s about $87 million in today’s money.
Her talent and magnetic presence on screen captivated audiences around the world.
Although her career took a big dip once talkies came in, she went on to eventually star in the iconic “Sunset Boulevard” as Norma Desmond a role that solidified her status as a cinematic legend. Swanson’s contribution to the world of entertainment cannot be overstated, and her impact continues to be felt to this day.
I highly recommend visiting the Amin Casa website to learn more about this extraordinary hotel.
Whether you seek a place to unwind or entertain, Amin Casa provides the perfect setting for your occasion. It’s a great place to celebrate a wedding, anniversary or hide out from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles for a few days. Many of the accommodations are furnished with fully functional kitchens.
The Ghost Story
The pinnacle of the tour for me, as a supernatural-loving Scorpio, came when Kelvin told us about the time that he and his wife got to spend a night in the master bedroom.
Upon awakening the next day, he was standing in the doorway of the bedroom and felt a presence “hug him from behind” and had a strong feeling it was Gloria herself saying “thank you” for the meticulous care he and the staff have given the property. (If you’ve met Kelvin you know what we are talking about. You can’t imagine the property being in better hands).
Although Swanson’s portrayal of Norma Desmond in the 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard solidified her status as one of the greatest actresses of all time, earning the film a spot on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Greatest American Movies, she was an icon of the silver screen long before that. Here is a list of her most memorable films dating back to the silent films at the dawning of Hollywood.
Even if you can’t afford the Amin Casa – rooms generally start at about $600-700 per night as I recall – the grounds themselves are incredible and if you are walking by on Arenas Road you might be lucky enough to score a quick tour of the property like we did.
Getting back to the history: Swanson recognized the need for a swimming pool and a guest house, so she had them added to the property.
These additions not only provided entertainment for her guests but also added to the overall charm of the place. Today, the tennis court has been replaced by a lush lawn, on which that magnificent 100-year-old cactus proudly stands. Gloria Swanson’s cactus.
After Swanson’s departure, the property underwent a transformation. It was sold to a newspaper heiress from Rhode Island, who converted it into a hotel. The guest house even received a kitchen, which still boasts its original all-oak paneling.
The inn was then named the Arenas Garden Hotel, paying homage to the road on which it is located and the beautiful gardens that wind through the property.
Unfortunately, after that the hotel faced neglect and the risk of demolition due to lack of visitors and proper maintenance.
Then it was rescued by two new owners who recognized its architectural and historical significance and decided to breathe new life into it.
In March 2016, they purchased the property and began the restoration process. One of the owners, with a background as a former tech executive, took charge of the structural aspects and day-to-day management, while the other, an expert in interior design and international travel medicine, focused on preserving the integrity of the interior and grounds.
Visiting Amin Casa is a truly delightful experience.
The hotel’s pool is heated year-round, allowing guests to enjoy a swim or relax by the poolside with a book and a cocktail, regardless of the season. With Palm Springs’ abundance of sunshine, you can also work on your tan while basking in the pool’s warmth.
Long-term guests are more than welcome at Amin Casa, with many already booked for years to come.
The bungalows are thoughtfully equipped with everything you need to live comfortably, even boasting fine china displayed in the glass-door cupboards. The attention to detail throughout the entire property is truly magnificent, making it feel like you’ve stepped onto a movie set.
Gloria Swanson herself would be proud. And apparently she is!