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608 S Indian Trail: Classic Hollywood-Style Home In Palm Springs, CA

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Bespoke ※ Historic ※ Trophy

"Occasionally a unique home comes to market that possesses one of three important qualities: bespoke, historic, or trophy. Rarer still do the stars align in a trifecta."

~ Jason Allen | Real Estate Planner & REALTOR®

Commanding attention on three parcels of prime Palm Springs land, 608 S Indian Trail sits proudly behind a four-foot-high original fieldstone wall that circumnavigates most of the permitter, including two corners. Renovated and restored by the current owners, details mattered.

Originally designed by the noted team of Brewster and Benedict for cartoonist Hal Forrest and his wife, Bettylou, the home has remained true to its roots while also adapting nicely to today’s standard of living.

The home itself is intelligently divided into two very functional halves. To the north is the main living quarters; they include two en suite bedrooms, a den, a formal living room, a wet bar, a casual eating area, a chef’s kitchen, a breakfast room with banquette, a formal dining room that seats ten comfortably, a powder room, and access to a basement. To the south with separate entrances are two additional en suite bedrooms and a basement.

Combined, the three lots total approximately 25,700 square feet in the heart of Palm Springs, California. This provides extensive grounds around the residence. A 40-foot by 20-foot pool anchors the garden. Two fountains, a naturalistic dry creek bed, a reflecting pool that can be converted to a koi pond, a ten-person spa, lawns, extensive plantings, and an elaborate outdoor grilling station unfold as you meander. These and the wide views of the San Jacinto mountains surprise and delight around every corner. Truly, the atmosphere of beauty and ease defies description.

Although decidedly Spanish-Colonial Revival in architectural style, the rooms are laid out in a sort of enfilade fashion, meaning there are no hallways. Instead, large hacienda-style covered walkways join the ground floor rooms. These wide-roof loggias create summer shade and, effectively, outdoor living areas. This casual lifestyle born in the late-1930s and early-1940s inspired millions of Americans through publications like Sunset Magazine, Collier’s, and Harper’s Bizarre. Poolside here defined the quintessential California dream.

Hal Forest asked architects Floyd Brewster and Hiram Benedict to realize for him and his wife a desert get-away; Hollywood was simply too much. And since deadlines weren’t what they are today, he could currier to sketches the two or so hours to town. Consider his an early form of remote work.

Their home at 608 S. Indian Trail was completed in 1937 when Mr. Forest was at the height of his career. The guest and office wing to the south of the original house was added shortly after.

As times, tastes, and fortunes changed, 608 S Indian Trail was sold to Judge Smith, who served on the Federal Bench.

Judge Gilbert and Mrs. Smith occupied the home seasonally in the early- to mid-1940s with their two children, Gil and Ruth. It is rumored that they rented the property before selling it.

Speculation has it that THE Mr. Disney himself rented and took up part-time residence at 608 South Indian Trail. His brother, Roy Disney, reportedly, stayed across the street at 591 South Indian Trail. Neither Walt nor Roy owned these two properties. And, according to The Palm Springs Visitor’s Bureau, Walt and Lillian became members of Smoke Tree Ranch in 1946 with their own home there built from 1948 to 1951.

Early in 1948, Judge Smith sold the property to Mr. Joseph Schenk, the renowned film producer and Hollywood entrepreneur who co-founded Twentieth Century Pictures and later become Chairman of Twentieth Century Fox after the companies merged.

Coincidentally, some say it was in late-1947 or early-1948 that Joseph Schenck met Marilyn Monroe. It appears as if Mr. Schenk only owned 608 South Indian Trail for less than a year.

In December of 1948, Joseph Schenck sold the property to Morris Teitelbaum and his sister Patricia DeMartini.

Morris Teitelbaum, a prominent Washington, D.C. attorney, and his wife, Evelyn, have seven children. Patricia and her husband, Paul DeMartini, primarily lived in New York where she was a successful attorney.

According to former resident, Bill Teitelbaum, who was raised from childhood at 608 S Indian Trail, his father, Morris Teitelbaum, knew Joseph Schenck. And it is from Bill that the tales of whose who from Tinseltown would flow.

It’s common knowledge among those who’ve studied Mr. Schenck’s life that he took a particular interest in Marilyn Monroe.

The bedroom Marylin Monroe is reported to have used while living at 608 S Indian Trail

Joseph Schenck essentially got Marilyn’s career back on track by 1950, but in that first year, he knew her, according to family lore Marilyn Monroe took refuge in the turret bedroom at 608 S Indian Trail on many a night. Did she actually live at the home? “Live” is perhaps too specific a term for such a nebulous period. It was Joseph Schenck who added the pool and performed some minor updating, like adding an ammonia-based cooling system. (This apparatus was early air conditioning technology, but it has long since been replaced by a modern, four-zone system by the current owners.)

The Desert Sun Newspaper archives have numerous articles citing various parties and happenings at 608 South Indian Trail. The Teitelbaums and DeMartinis were well-known in Palm Springs through civic engagements, volunteerism, and charity. Their successful children were mentioned for their academic and social achievements. Wedding announcements and even a fall off a long-gone rear staircase made the paper.

In the late 1970s, the home was sold to Dr. Price who was a successful urologist in San Francisco. In fact, Dr. Price smartly purchased many of the homes around 608 South Indian Trail.

By all indications, Dr. Price, an avid amateur horticulturist, loved 608 South Indian Trail. He used the grounds as a large petri dish by planting a vast variety of cacti and palms. He installed a koi pond, stocked it, and grew aquatic plants, like lilies.

Combined with Dr. Price's declining health in the twenty-teens, the old house and grounds at 608 South Indian Trail fell into grave disrepair. Dr. Price died of natural causes in 2018.

The current owners purchased the property in 2019 from Dr. Price’s estate and began a painstaking restoration and renovation borne of love.

Original wooden and steel casement windows have been remade, including proper screen inserts. The rear loggia was reopened after being enclosed. Entire walls, floors, and roofs were rebuilt to correct deferred maintenance and damage.

All four and one-half bathrooms were remodeled. The gourmet kitchen has been reworked to a sensible galley layout and one that now befits a house of this stature.

The original terra cotta tiled roof has been restored and made watertight. Floors have been refinished, retiled, or recarpeted; exposed beamed ceilings have been restored. Both electrical and plumbing systems have been extensively reworked to the point of being almost entirely replaced, including the repairs and partial replacement of three lateral sewer lines.

There is virtually no surface that has not been caressed or manhandled to return this prestigious property into a thing of beauty.

Recent additions include the ten-person spa, rock fountain, landscape lighting, fencing, outdoor grilling station, pool fountain jets, and side patio and parking pad.

Even the original stone “end of season party” performance platform constructed at the behest of Mr. Teitelbaum has been rebuilt. It was here that local musicians would entertain garden party guests. Sitdown meals at long tables, dancing under the stars, and carefree laughter: what a life.

With a rich Hollywood and Palm Springs history, will you be the next steward of this fine residence? And might you entertain so elegantly at 608 South Indian Trail if this were your home?

Or would you prefer more casual affairs?

The kind where you and only close friends lounge around sipping pool-side bevies? Marveling at those big, San Jacinto Mountains, and waking up where Marilyn Monroe surely must have kept company.

Listed At $3,250,000

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