If the walls of The Willows Historic Inn in Palm Springs could talk, they would tell stories of a golden era, when Hollywood royalty and international celebrities graced its terraced gardens and paused at its breathtaking panoramas.
Today, 95 years after it was built, enchanted guests are ushered up the same stone stairs that Clark Gable, Shirley Temple and Albert Einstein once walked.
The Willows served as a private estate for nearly 70 years until the mid 1990s, when two emergency room doctors, Tracy Conrad and her husband Paul Marut, purchased it.
“The house looked forlorn but clearly had magnificent architecture and the aura of a lovely, gracious by-gone era…the idea that Einstein had been there, sat on the verandah, slept in the bedroom and ate in the dining room is what inspired the couple to bring the Willows Inn back to life,” explains Conrad.
Einstein made multiple visits to the Willows in the 1930s and his reported love for nude sunbathing is just one of the stories chronicled in their book, Einstein Dreamt Here.
“To discover how much he loved his time in the desert was remarkable,” says Conrad. So remarkable, he has a room named for him. The Einstein Room has antique pieces made from rich woods, a beautifully tiled bathroom with a claw foot tub and a photo of the famed mathematician in Palm Springs. The Inn’s eight guestrooms, all with distinct themes, are decorated with elegant period-style furnishings paired with modern luxuries.
The Rock Room has a magnificent boulder protruding up from the corner of an oversized shower and the Library Room boasts a spectacularly coffered ceiling, hand-carved fireplace and a magnificent Florentine-style desk. The name celebrates the Academy Award-nominated There Will be Blood screenplay, which was penned there by Paul Thomas Anderson.
The Willows embraces a bygone era of leisurely pursuits, Gatsby-style parties, and classic Mediterranean architecture. “Palm Springs is a small town on the edge of the desert and yet so many luminaries, dignitaries, scientists, and celebrities have been here…I find that magical,” says Conrad. Indeed, the Historic Inn has witnessed the growth of Palm Springs from its humble origins into an international resort, while staying true to its history.
Every evening at sunset, guests are invited to convene for wine and hors d’oeuvres in the living room, with its ornate mahogany beam ceiling and candelabra-style chandelier. With the sounds of Billie Holiday playing softly in the background, the evening often erupts into a spontaneous cocktail party.
“The guests are cosmopolitan travellers and bring a variety of experiences and perspectives to the party. It is reminiscent of salons in times past,” muses Conrad.
The Willows has become a timeless retreat for modern-day travellers who still enjoy Einstein’s favorite spot – the bench where he admired unforgettable desert sunsets, and listened to the soothing sounds of the Willows’ spectacular 50-foot waterfall.