Modernism Week 2019: The Glamorous Gardens of Tommy Tomson

Gardens of Tommy Tomson - modernism week lecture

In our series of highlights on lectures taking place during Modernism Week, we open with The Glamorous Gardens of Tommy Tomson. Over the course of an hour, landscape historian Steven Keylon will give a presentation on prolific landscape artists Tommy Tomson, also known as the “landscape architect to the stars”.

The story goes that after landing in Hollywood in the 1920s, Tomson was noticed for his handsome looks and invited in for screen testings. When the testing failed to result in a studio contract, Tomson gave up on the idea of going into show business. Instead, he chose a completely different career path, converting into a self-taught landscape architect.

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Tomson’s creative work as a landscape designer and visionary left a lifelong impression on Southern California’s distinct look. He was partly responsible for founding the city of Palm Desert, planning the entire site and street layout in addition to landscaping for the Shadow Mountain Club on top of numerous private residences.

Gardens of Tommy Tomson - modernism week lecture

In one of our previous articles on Frank Sinatra’s “Twin Palms” estate, we mentioned its lavish piano shaped pool, which is just one example of Tomson’s extensive work in the Palm Springs area.

Throughout the 1930s and ‘40s, he designed for reputable stars in the area, including the likes of Joan Bennet, Robert Montgomery, Joan Crawford, Tyrone Power, Charles Boyer and Henry Fonda. By the same token, he designed landscapes for locations often visited by stars, namely the Santa Anita Race Track, the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, the Brown Derby, Union Station and the Beverly Hills Hotel.

There is a lot more to be said about Tomson’s considerable creative work, which we will leave to landscape historian Steven Keylon during the lecture to be held during Modernism Week. Keylon is Vice-President of the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation and recently published a book on Palm Springs architectural designer Herbert W. Burns, and in February 2019 will release a book about architect Hugh Kaptur. Find more info about the even, here.

Gardens of Tommy Tomson - modernism week lecture
Gardens of Tommy Tomson - modernism week lecture
Photos via Modernism Week