Reprinted from the:   Palm Springs Meiselman Reborn

A Mid-Century Tract Home Renovation blog: What characterizes a Meiselman Home? (pronounced "MY-zill-min")

Like the more well known Alexander Homes of Palm Springs and the Eichler Homes of Los Angeles and Northern California, a Meiselman Home epitomizes the mid-century tract home revolution. It's indoor/outdoor desert-friendly design was on the cutting edge of the mass-market modern movement. Indeed they were sleek and modern with crisp clean lines, butterfly roofs, and soaring clerestory windows.

They were built using Post and Beam construction with tongue and groove ceilings and generous amounts of architecturally sculpted concrete block. There were walls of glass that look out onto an oversized pool and the homes themselves are situated on 1/4 acre lots. They were also quite technologically advanced for their time with forced air heating and central air conditioning, an amenity that suddenly offered year-round enjoyment of the desert.

And the best part? They were cheap. The initial sales price for the "entry-level model" was around $18,500 in 1959. Most of these homes were not year-round residences however, they were weekend party bungalows for Hollywood hipsters. Alexander and Meiselman Homes are often confused because they are so similar in appearance and they are interspersed with one another, primarily on the Northend of Palm Springs. There are two distinct differences between the homes.

  • Alexanders have the kitchen on one end often integrated into the living room in one large open space. Meiselmans always have a galley kitchen off the living room.
  • Alexanders have all three bedrooms in a row on one side of the house. Meiselmans always have a separation of bedrooms, with the two guest rooms on one end and the master suite on the other end of the house.

Jack Meiselman:  First a word about The Alexander Construction Company... The Alexander Construction story is well known here. It has been told time and time again. Father and Son (George and Bob) built a thriving construction business in post-war Los Angeles. Seeing the successes of other builders (mainly Eichler) who were building a new concept "tract homes", they decided to bring the idea to the desert. Designed by Palmer and Krisel, AIA, the homes were a perfect fit for the desert. The Alexanders built over 2500 homes in Palm Springs alone from 1955-1965, when tragically, the entire family, save the daughter, were killed in a plane crash. They are legends around these parts. Little is known about Jack Meiselman.  Jack Meiselman, a local builder, worked with Bob Alexander in a joint venture on a number of the Alexander Construction homes. At some point there was a falling out between the two men, rumor has it that finances were involved, and Jack Meiselman decided to get out of the deal. Seeing a lucrative opportunity in these new tract homes, they were selling like hotcakes, after all, he and his brother Bernie Meiselman would follow wherever Alexander was buying land, then they would buy the adjacent parcels. Old school parasites. He came up with a "Modified Alexander" layout and built roughly 350 tract homes sprinkled amongst the Alexander Homes In Palm Springs.   

The  Meiselman Home is no more cheaply built than the equivalent Alexander. While not exactly death traps, they all used the cheapest materials available. The  Meiselman home introduced a nice separation of space by configuring the guest rooms on the opposite side of the house from the Master. 

 What happened in the process of building the Alexander and Meiselman homes is they defined affordable desert modernism and carved out a unique niche of modern homes in the late '50s.  The designs of these homes are still as strong today as they were 50 years ago. Witness the incredible resurgence of mid-century mania here in Palm Springs in the last 10 years. Still somewhat affordable by California standards, the smaller homes are still selling anywhere from $350-$750K depending on condition. Many of these homes fell into great disrepair during the '80s and '90s. Hard times hit Palm Springs and the economic downturn actually turned out to be a blessing for preservation. People could not afford to tear the old houses down. So they stood and rotted away. With the latest resurgence of interest in all things mid-century, these petrified jewels became very desirable again. People started buying them in the late '90s for a song ($20-$120K) and fixing them up. Some fixed up properly, some are complete travesties.  Most of them, however, have been treated with the respect they deserve. 

These homes represent a very important period for Palm Springs. With that said, it's vital to keep the integrity of the house intact, but also offer a little wiggle room to make them livable by today's standards. Restored Meiselman homes in the Racquet Club Road Estates neighborhood have been selling in the  $900,000+ range in 2021.

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