Is the O’Donnell House Your I Do Destination?
Typically when you think of Palm Springs, California, visions of Mid-Century Modern homes and Rat Pack-filled cocktail lounges come to mind. And that’s certainly true, but there was also plenty going on in Palm Springs before Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe made it their home-away-from-home.
In the 1920s, Palm Springs was home—or rather, a second home—for many captains of industry, who built lavish houses and enjoyed the natural hot springs nearby (which were said to cure everything from arthritis to asthma).
One of these homes is now available for weddings and other events, and it’s arguably one of the best still standing today. The O’Donnell House was known as “Ojo del Desierto,” or “Eye of the Desert,” when it was built in 1925 as a winter home for oilman Thomas O’Donnell and his wife. Until the 1960s, it was the highest mountainside home in Palm Springs, ending only when Bob Hope heard of this and topped it—barely—with his own home on a hill across the valley.
In 2000, the home was restored to its Roaring ’20s glory with period furniture and art and is now available to rent as either a vacation home or event space.
Like I said, it’s high on a hilltop overlooking Palm Springs so the view, particularly at night when the valley lights up, is spectacular. There’s a small grass area behind the house that overlooks the mountains and is perfect for wedding ceremonies. The bridal party walks down a small flight of stairs from the house to the aisle, so it makes for quite the entrance. After the ceremony guests can meander to the wide sweeping front driveway for the reception. Weddings aren’t held inside the house (unless they’re very small), but you can use the space for some beautiful wedding photos and stay there the night before and the night of your wedding if you’d like.
It’s perfect if you’re after a “Gatsby heads West” vibe, but it also works well for more modern-themed weddings, too. And if privacy is what you’re after this is the place. Guests park below and are ferried up the mountain in golf carts; the house is the only structure on that part of the mountain. The closest building to your wedding would be the Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn (owned by the same family as the O’Donnell House), which is a short hike down the hill. The inn has eight stunning rooms that would be perfect for wedding guests. (Read more about the Willows and other Palm Springs attractions.)
As the house is in the desert you can only hold weddings from late September to early May, and the space fills up quickly, so plan on booking far in advance. The O’Donnell House can host approximately 140 people (depending on table arrangements).