Casa Cody is the oldest operating hotel in Palm Springs. All of the buildings at Casa Cody tell a story. I explored the now designated historic preservation site the other day.
The property was founded in the 1920’s by Hollywood pioneer, Harriet Cody, cousin to the legendary, Buffalo Bill. The hotel is nestled against the spectacular San Jacinto mountains, in the heart of Palm Springs.
History of the hotel: In the early 1900’s, Harriet and Harold Bryant Cody came by wagon from Hollywood to Palm Springs. They settled on land that was to become Casa Cody and built a home. By the 1920’s, Harriet established the property as a hotel and it became the stomping grounds for legends of the arts community, visiting the desert. Charlie Chaplin, American Opera Singer Lawrence Tibbett and AnaÏs Nin spent time here, particularly in the Adobe House, where a stage was built and Tibbett’s piano was kept below the House for performances and parties. Charlie Chaplin was rumored to have performed on the stage in the living room.
Casa Cody combines glamour, history and just plain breathtaking beauty at every glance.
This week on an unusually windy day, I had the pleasure of checking out another unique hotel.
Kathy, the gracious owner, escorted me around her delightfully large one-acre property and filled me in on the history surrounding the private 16 room boutique hotel nestled against the backdrop of the dramatic San Jacinto Mountains. After all, what’s a good hotel here without a story?
Originally designed by renowned modernist architect Albert Frey and built in 1960, the hotel re-opened in 2016, after a restoration by its current owners, Kathy and Gary Friedle, to its original mid-century modern design. The space is very charming and makes you feel at home. I think you might want to stay for more than one night. The outdoor space includes a lovely heated saltwater pool, the only Scandinavian Spa in the area including dry sauna, hot tub, seating areas and a Smeg retro fridge where guests are welcome to help themselves to the contents. A complimentary continental breakfast and sangria happy hour every day for guests. What’s not to love?
Bonus: I love that Gary concocts his own teas which guests also have the privilege of sampling from the cart. There’s even a Palm Springs blend which smells heavenly.
The Monkey Tree is located less than a mile from the hustle and bustle Charlie Farrel’s famed Racquet Club. The hotel is a classic example of mid-century modern design and was a get-away for the celebrities who wanted to have some time away from the public. Palm Springs lore has it that celebrity guests at The Monkey Tree Hotel have included: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Eric Clapton, Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder, and even a JFK and Marilyn visit (guarded at the private entrance of their suite by the secret service).
In 1995, Albert Frey contacted the then owners of the hotel to ask if he could come by for a visit. At the time, Frey was 92 years old and said that he had not visited the property since it was built. He rode his bike the four miles from Frey House II where he was living to the hotel in a white polyester pantsuit and burnt orange shirt, arriving dapper as always. As he toured the property, he shared his inspiration for the layout and design of the hotel with the current owners. Frey was fascinated by the San Jacinto Mountains and found great inspiration in them. He intended the dramatic slanting roof lines to be in harmony and pay homage to the mountains and the Indians.
ABOUT THE OWNERS (Kathy & Gary):
After obtaining her Master of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis in 1992, Kathy began her architecture career in New York City. She worked for Gensler for 20 years in both design and management roles. Her clients in New York included many prestigious law firms, a well-known California based talent agency and numerous advertising agencies.
Gary has been in the field of financial management for 25 years. He started his career working on a trading desk in New York City then worked with private wealth clients and most recently was the Chief Operating Officer of a private wealth management firm. Gary has a passion for long distance running and has participated in several (100-mile) ultra-marathons.
In 2015 an opportunity arose to purchase a boutique hotel in Palm Springs, and the timing and career change seemed right for them and their two teenage sons to try a new adventure on the west coast. After seeing the great architectural bones of The Monkey Tree hotel they dove in to the restoration of the mid-century modern property which had been largely closed to the public since 1988. Their first decision was to re-establish the original 1960 name of the hotel and to re-brand, and re-invigorate the property.
They did just that. I would definitely recommend this hotel.
Here’s another hidden gem I came across while out riding my bike. I’ve seen the sign many times and now I’ve gone beyond the simple hand painted sign into what is a completely restored 1950’s style modern rustic retreat. It’s warm, it’s simple and it’s very inviting.
History of the Lodge:
Originally built as Castle’s Red Barn in 1952 by MGM actor Don Castle and his wife Zetta, it was one of the original resort getaways for Hollywood elite. Legend has it that iconic actress Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched) had her first marriage at the Red Barn. The property has also had incarnations as Catalina Palms, El Rancho Lodge and now Sparrows Lodge. The Lodge was fully restored in 2013 and many of the original buildings are still in use with modern updates retaining the charm of the original Red Barn.
The lodge has a communal barn, outdoor fire pit and vegetable garden, accented by a collection of fine art including works by Ruscha, Kelly, Katz & Baldessari. The 20 rooms feature exposed beam ceilings, russet red walls, concrete floors with inlaid pebbles and butterfly chairs. Swiss army blankets top plush mattresses, and instead of closets you’ll find a metal footlocker along with hooks and hangers. Bathrooms feature rain showers, and many include horse troughs as bathtubs. Most rooms have private patios. All rooms have AC/Heat and ceiling fans. With no televisions or phones in the rooms, there is an environment of ease and simplicity.
The Barn Kitchen
The kitchen is open daily for lunch from 11am – 6pm, serving delicious sandwiches, salads and small bites.
On “Chicken” Wednesdays and “Steak” Saturdays, the kitchen serves a family style supper for a select number of guests. The menu changes for each dinner. No substitutions or alterations. Reservations are required.
Chef Gabriel Woo has received accolades from the Wall Street Journal to Conde Nast Traveller. He was recently invited to cook at the James Beard House in 2019.
The bar remains open until 11pm everyday, serving a selection of microbrews, wine, champagne, specialty drinks and sodas. In the evening, gather around the fire-pit and meet new friends.
1330 East Palm Canyon Drive (across from Koffi).
For reservations tel: 760 327 2300
I had the unexpected pleasure of visiting the unique and magnificent Mission Inn Hotel and Spa during this holiday season along with a splendid Festival of Lights that light up the hotel and surrounding areas. Located in Riverside, California (about a 90-minute drive from Palm Springs with little traffic) and with only two more days until Christmas, let’s just say that this helped get me into the spirit. These photos barely do it justice.
The Cornerstone of Downtown Riverside
“It is the most unique hotel in America. It’s a monastery, a museum, a fine hotel, a home, a boardinghouse, a mission, an art gallery and an aviator’s shrine. It combines the best features of all of the above. If you are ever in any part of California, don’t miss the famous Mission Inn of Riverside.” – Will Rogers
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, is a historic landmark hotel in downtown Riverside, California. Many presidents (including President Kennedy) stayed there and Richard Nixon married Pat at this hotel.
The story of the Mission Innstretches over more than a century and began with the Miller family, migrants to California from Tomah, Wisconsin. In 1874, civil engineer C.C. Miller arrived in Riverside, began work on a water system, and with his family, began a small boarding house in the center of town.
The Mission Inn’s rise to greatness began in the late 1800’s when wealthy Easterners and Europeans flocked to Riverside in search of both a warmer winter climate and also a way to invest in the area’s profitable citrus industry. By the 1890’s, Riverside was the richest city per capita in the United States. The consistent influx of tourists to Riverside made Frank Miller, the Master of the Inn, recognize the dire need for a grand resort hotel.
It was in that moment that the evolution of The Mission Inn began. Frank Miller opened the first wing, The Mission, of his new hotel in 1903, which was built in Mission-Revival style architecture and incorporated different structural elements of the 21 California Missions. Mr. Miller went on to add three more wings to his hotel: the Cloister, the Spanish and the final addition, the Rotunda wing, in 1931.
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 1996, dates back to 1876.
I’ve been back to my Vancouver home for just over a week now and have been going through a temporary phase of running on empty. This has happened a couple times in my life where I feel the need to retreat and renew myself and just BE. Usually brought on by adapting to a situation…a shock to my system resulting from a minor injury, a loss or combination of these things. A need for readjustment. Nothing major. Just paying attention. I’m also in the process of renovating my outdoor living space. And a few other things.
So on that note I’m posting some recent pics. And I’ll be back before you know it.
Before Leaving Palm Springs it was getting too hot. We took the tram to cool off.
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HOLIDAY HOUSE, PALM SPRINGS
Before driving back to Vancouver we decided to take a detour to a resort in San Diego for two nights. Mostly to be near open water. We stayed facing Mission Bay and the beach was a five minute walk from there. It was a welcome place for the dogs to cool off.
On the day we were leaving we went to La Jolla for lunch. We stopped at a local Mexican restaurant.
I think the way Tamara took this photo is really cool. This was outside the UNO de 50 jewelry store on El Paseo in Palm Desert. I’m wearing the same locket (gift from the Le Chien fashion show) on my necklace as the door handle and you can see her reflection in the glass.
This will be my last post regarding fabulous little Palm Springs places to stay until next season.
That’s because I’m headed home and taking a little break. In the meantime here’s another mid-century modern gem of a place with a past (the best kind always do).
The Del Marcos Hotel (1947), designed by architect William F. Cody.
From the website:
Originally designed for owners Samuel and Adele Marcus, the building is historically important because it was Cody™s first independent commission in Palm Springs, and launched his solo career in the desert. The 17-room modernist hotel is located at 225 West Baristo Road close to the downtown in the historic Tennis Club neighborhood. The hotel immediately became a popular destination and remains so to this day. Said to have been inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright™s Arizona architecture, the project won a creative design award for the architect from the Southern California chapter of the AIA as an example of cutting-edge resort hotel architecture. Built of native stone and redwood, surrounding a shimmering pool, architectural features include luxurious suites, an organic asymmetrical entrance doorway, and floor-to-ceiling glass. The two-story building (with a single-story shed roof section on the northeast corner) features a U-shaped plan centered on a courtyard, a design which encourages socializing among guests.
It’s great when you feel like you’re on holiday in a place where you’re really not...only because it has become your second home.
Palm Springs snowbird season is coming to a close. As a result I’m coming close to the end of my quest for discovering and sharing the cool, the eclectic and the fabulous little boutique hotels, inns and places to take you away from the norm. I’m sharing places I’ve either stayed at or at least visited and spent some time in hanging aroundwhere they’ve almost had to kick me out.
More places are on my list but it will have to wait until next season.The places I’ve blogged about are the inconspicuous little gems that you may not otherwise ever know about unless by word of mouth or you find by accident or through research. Take for instance the latest – a 28-room boutique hotel located downtown Palm Springs called
I love this place. Holiday House is exactly what it sounds like. I also like that in order to create a communal environment, Holiday House does not have televisions in any of the rooms. Personally speaking if I’m on a ‘real’ holiday I don’t want to watch TV. I would relax and then hang out at the very friendly bar and order food from the pleasing restaurant menu. I was just there on Tuesday for Taco Tuesday and it was excellent. It’s very comfortable. They also have a fried chicken Friday but you must reserve in advance. I hear it’s fabulous and I hope to find out soon – possibly even next Friday – just before I leave.
This hotel was originally built in 1951 and was a project of mid-century architectural designer Herbert W. Burns. Burns was one of the most important figures in helping to define Palm Springs modernist style, or what has now become mid-century modern.
From the website:
When it first opened, the Holiday House was billed as the newest “luxury hotel” in Palm Springs, and catered to what they referred to as “exclusive select clientele”. For years, the Holiday House ranked as one of the top hotels in Palm Springs. Since its inception, the hotel has changed hands and has garnered many different names and identities. Most recently it operated as The Chase Hotel. In 2017, Holiday House re-opened with its original name and spirit.
The design centers around Gio Ponti inspired tile-work in the bar and artwork throughout the property including pieces by David Hockney, Roy Liechtenstein, Herb Ritts, Alex Katz and Mr. Brainwash, with a garden sculpture by Donald Sultan.
If you’re blue and you don’t know where to go to Why don’t you go where fashion sits?
Recently I went to the Ritz Rancho Mirage for a cocktail. Making a right turn on Frank Sinatra Drive, winding my way up the hill to the clifftop setting overlooking Coachella Valley It was easy to see why this iconic luxury hotel was inspired by the desert. It’s actually in the desert. the scenery was certainly incomparable.
The Ritz has always had an opulent and stylish past. The one in Montreal is special to me. Being from Montreal I remember many summer brunches in the restaurant garden at the Ritz watching the ducks and swans in the pond swim by. It’s where my best friend’s wedding took place and I was a bridesmaid, and my husband and I spent a couple nights celebrating an anniversary there. Something else you many or may not know…dating back to 1912, this was the first Ritz-Carlton hotel and is where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton wed in the Royal Suite in 1964.
I visited the Hôtel Ritz Parisdidn’t get past the bar where the hotel’s rooms and suites bear the names of Coco Chanel, F. Scott Fitzgerald or Marcel Proust – all of whom considered the Ritz “a second home”. But getting back to the bar…Cole Porter was said to spend up to 9 hours a day in the Hemingway Bar: he’s said to have composed “Begin the Beguine” there. F. Scott Fitzgerald had his favorite seat; Ernest Hemingway and Gary Cooper made it the epicenter of their life in Paris and would sit and talk for hours. There’s no question it has a glamorous past.
Different types who wear a day coat, pants with stripes
And cutaway coat, perfect fits
Dressed up like a million dollar trooper
Tryin’ hard to look like Gary Cooper
Come, let’s mix where Rockefellers walk with sticks
Or umbrellas in their mitts
Have you seen the well-to-do?
Up and down Park Avenue
On that famous thoroughfare
With their noses in the air
High hats and arrow collars
White spats and lots of dollars
Spending every dime for a wonderful time
If you’re blue and you don’t know where to go Why don’t you go where fashion sits?
Puttin’ On the Ritz lyrics – written by Irving Berlin.
The title derives from the slang expression “to put on the Ritz”, meaning to dress very fashionably. The expression was inspired by the Ritz Hotel. It was also a musical in 1930.
A bit of history with a healthy dose of glamour – why not?