I’m so very sad. Rancho Mirage lost one of its most cherished landmark structures on Tuesday morning, January 10th. As the only commercial building on the city’s historical preservation list—the other 44 are private homes, most in the mid-century modern style—the serpentine restaurant often referred to by the name of its first tenant, The Chart House, was all but destroyed in a devastating fire. Designed in 1977 by Kendrick Bangs Kellogg and literally tucked into the hillside on Highway 111, the property had been operating under the name GG’s Island.
Although I had eaten in all of the restaurants occupying the space, beginning with The Chart House, which closed there in 2003, and continuing with Haleiwa Joe’s Seafood Grill, Bananaz Tropical Grill, and then GGs Island, for me my visits were often as much about showing my friends this spectacular building as it was about savoring the food. From the outside you could barely tell how large this spacious building was, since it was partially underground with subterranean walls running both inside and outside the structure. Some of the mammoth wooden support columns and overhead spines were made of timber salvaged from an old pier in San Pedro. It was all a sight to behold.
Sadly, the fire—its cause still under investigation—pretty much destroyed the structure to the tune of $5 million in damages. There is talk from optimistic preservationists about rebuilding, but owner John Wessman has not yet announced his intentions. I hope you were as lucky as I was to have experienced this cherished treasure in the Palm Springs Valley. Stay tuned for updates.