Did you know the Colony Palms Hotel was once owned by a member of the Purple Gang?
Colony Palms Hotel HistoryCourtesy of Colony Palms Hotel Originally dubbed the Colonial House, this Spanish Colonial style hotel was built and opened in 1936 by owner Al Wertheimer, a reputed mobster and member of the Purple Gang. Featuring plenty of sunshine, a refreshing deep-water swimming pool, resort classic cuisine, as well as a legendary underground speakeasy and brothel which was entered via a secret staircase concealed behind a pantry cupboard, the hotel served as a private club for Wertheimer and his gambling pals. Along with his brothers, Wertheimer also owned the legendary Clover Club located in the heart of Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles as well as The Dunes nightclub located in Cathedral City both infamous for their lavish décor, celebrity clientele and illicit gambling. After World War II, the hotel was renamed the Howard Manor under glamorous new ownership, Robert Howard and his wife Andrea Leeds Howard. Robert was son of Charles Howard, owner of the championship thoroughbred racehorse Seabiscuit, a symbol of hope to many Americans during the Great Depression. Andrea Leeds was an actress who had achieved fame in 1937 by being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in “Stage Door” staring Katherine Hepburn. Under the handsome couple’s stewardship, The Howard Manor and its supper club, called the Academy Room, became a legendary Palm Springs hotspot. For the next 30 years, the hotel was a haven for Hollywood in Palms Springs. In 1956, Annie and Dave Margolis acquired the hotel from Robert Howard on a handshake deal made between Dave and Robert over cocktails one evening at the hotel. The highly social couple continued operating the hotel under the Howard Manor, a name that had become synonymous with Palm Springs glamour. Annie and Dave moved to Palm Springs in 1949 from Dayton Ohio who leased the hotel to fitness pioneer Sheila Cluff and her husband Don who changed the name to The Palms at Palm Springs and established the first health spa in an otherwise lazy Palm Springs. Sheila Cluff, a former figure skater, soon had guests doing aerobics and other fitness routines in and around the courtyard pool. In 1999, the Cluff’s purchased the hotel outright from Roberts. Having re-opened in 2007 after an extensive renovation designed in collaboration with Los Angeles based Martyn Lawrence-Bullard, the renamed Colony Palms Hotel has regained its swagger as a stunning four-star boutique hotel where Dave owned a fine men’s clothing store. In 1957, former boxing heavyweight champion, Jack Dempsey, bought a ten percent interest in the Howard Manor at the invitation of Dave Margolis, Dempsey’s best friend. Dempsey spent a considerable amount of time in Palm Springs entertaining at the hotel and looking after his investment. As hosts, Jack, Dave, and Annie, presided over the hotel and decadent poolside supper club, greeting friends and countless celebrities, who regularly included Frank Sinatra, Howard Hughes, Ronald Reagan, Kirk Douglas and Zsa Zsa Gabor, in a highly charged social scene that became legendary in Palm Springs. Luring the best acts from Las Vegas to perform at the Howard Manor, Margolis created an icon. Margolis sold the hotel in the late 1960s but was forced to take back the property after the new owner defaulted on the seller financing provided by Margolis. Finally, in 1979 the hotel was sold to David Roberts, an investor, Having re-opened in 2007 after an extensive renovation designed in collaboration with Los Angeles based Martyn Lawrence-Bullard, the renamed Colony Palms Hotel has regained its swagger as a stunning four-star boutique hotel spread out over three acres of property. In the spirit of the hotel’s past, CPH features the “Purple Palm Restaurant,” a tip of the hat to the Purple Gang, as well as the “Winner’s Circle Suite” in honor of legendary racehorse Seabiscuit, and the “Palme D’Or Residence,” the hotel’s finest accommodation inspired by the highest prize awarded each year at the Cannes Film Festival, an honor emblematic of artistic achievement in today’s Hollywood. The Colony Palms Hotel is located at , 572 N Indian Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262 . Phone (760) 969-1818 or go to www.colonypalmshotel.com
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