What is this Spanish Colonial beauty doing at Modernism Week?


Midcentury Modern architecture fans make the trek to Modernism Week in Palm Springs twice a year for the opportunity to tour modern classics like Albert Frey’s 800-square-foot “Frey House II” or the Donald Wexler-designed Kirk Douglas residence.

But, at its core, Modernism Week is about historical preservation. And that is why you’ll find the 1922 Cavanagh Spanish Adobe — one of the oldest surviving homes in the Coachella Valley — listed on the tour itinerary for this year’s Fall Preview running Oct. 19-22.

A view of the historic 1922 Cavanagh Adobe and weekend home of architects Diane Wilk and Michael Burch in Indian Wells (one of the oldest still-standing adobe homes in the Coachella Valley). Built of handmade adobe.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Carefully renovating Spanish homes is something of a natural instinct for the new owners, La Cañada-based husband-and-wife architects Michael Burch and Diane Wilk, who have devoted the past five years to restoring the three-bedroom, two-bath adobe in addition to other Spanish Colonial and Mediterranean Revival style homes from the 1920s and ’30s.

The home in Indian Wells was built by brothers Albert and Hubert “Bert” Cavanagh, the latter of whom was a successful date rancher and onetime mayor of the town, from thousands of handmade adobe bricks that were produced on what was then a 20-acre site planted with date palms.

The home features a series of curved arches.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The home features hand-hewn natural timbers and handmade roof tiles, Tunisian tile similar to those you’ll find at the Santa Barbara Courthouse as well as Burch and Wilk’s collection of Monterey Revival Antiques and Early California collectibles.

During a tour of the adobe on Oct. 22, the architects will discuss the restoration process as well as current trends in conservation, including energy.

“There are lessons to be learned from this house that are helpful for today,” says Wilk. “Being one with the Earth, not using a lot of water and building something that is appropriate for the desert.”

The couple, who use the house on weekends and during the winter, will also share what it’s like to live in an adobe home.

“It’s like a living organism,” Wilk says with a laugh. “We decided to celebrate the ravages of time and highlight the home’s romantic modernism.”


12:20 p.m.: An earlier version of this story misstated the year the home was built. The correct date is 1922.

Another view of the historic 1922 Cavanagh Adobe.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Modernism Week Fall Preview

What: The Fall Preview includes lectures, home tours, historic walking tours and the Modernism Show & Sale. (Modernism Week's 11-day festival will be Feb. 15-25, 2018. The schedule will be available online Oct. 25 and tickets available starting Nov. 1)

Where: Palm Springs

When: Oct. 19-22

Admission: Individual events range from free to $150.

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