When Janey and I visited the Salton Sea last weekend we made sure to stop at the North Shore Yacht Club because it was designed by one of my favorite architects, desert modernist Albert Frey. After World War II, Frey designed some of Palm Springs most iconic buildings, including the Tramway Gas Station, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Palm Springs City Hall and, my personal favorite, Frey House II nestled up in the hills above Palm Springs. But among all his work the North Shore Yacht Club might be among the most whimsical, after all who better than the man who built a house around a boulder to design a yacht club in the middle of the desert?
Frey obviously had an immense amount of fun designing the club. From the exposed aluminum siding to the mast and nautical flags it looks like a giant ship about the set sail right off the shore. The club cost over $2 million to build (over $16 million today) but boasted the largest marina in California when it opened, and counted celebrities like Jerry Lewis, members of the Beach Boys and Marx Brothers were among its members. The club actually managed to stay open through the 1980s until a flood wiped out the marina and it was finally forced to close. After its closure some residents remember it being used for AA meetings until it was finally abandoned to rust away in the 1990s.
Finally in 2009 Riverside County funded a $3.35 million renovation to be used as a community center and museum. The team, which included the architect who also restored the Tramway Gas Station, had to strip eight layers of paint from the brickwork and search nationwide for the proper aluminum siding. Sadly, the museum is gone since its lease with the county expired, but the building is still in use as a senior center, community center and event space.