Palm Springs’ oldest hotel has stories to tell

Palm Springs was still a few years away from becoming a Hollywood playground when Harriet Cody arrived by wagon alongside her architect husband, Harold Bryant Cody, in 1916. Cousin of Wild West showman Buffalo Bill Cody and accomplished horsewoman, she opened the first equestrian center in the Tennis Club district, renting and boarding horses for visitors – including movie star cowboys when filming in the desert – before building the modest adobe house that would become later Casa Cody.

Closer to a bohemian aunt’s private estate than a traditional resort, staying at Casa Cody is like stepping back in time to a bygone era. Framed by the San Jacinto Mountains but within walking distance of the Palm Springs Museum of Art and Palm Canyon Drive, its proximity to downtown belies the sense of sanctuary and isolation. Protected fruit trees and bougainvillea line the walls; the restful grounds gradually reveal themselves once you pass through the small but ornate iron gate on Cahuilla Road. The original California-style adobe ranch, and a collection of cottages and studios added over the years, have been home to opera singers and movie stars – even General Patton’s officers when they trained for the front lines of North Africa during World War II – so there’s no shortage of history.

Casa Cody

Sharon Soboil

“We’re always on the lookout for properties that stand out architecturally or have an interesting story to tell, and Casa Cody is a perfect fit,” says Carolyn Schneider, co-founder and president of hotel management company Casetta Group. Her affection for the desert enclave led her to jump at the chance to restore one of her prized properties when the opportunity arose two years ago. “Casa Cody is beautiful. It feels like this little secret garden in the middle of Palm Springs, so we were excited to highlight what was already there and pay homage to its incredible history, but also bring a new audience to the site,” she said.

Casa Cody’s eclectic accommodations are spread over four separate lots, but were unified in 1988 and received a Class 1 Historic Site designation by the Palm Springs City Council two decades later. Architectural styles range from adobe hacienda and Spanish colonial revival to a prefab cottage originally built to house the athletes of the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Schneider says part of the charm and enduring spirit of Casa Cody is the quirky mix of buildings that all happened at different times. Keen to preserve as many historic details as possible while unifying exterior facades and modernizing guest rooms, Casetta Group worked with Venice Beach architecture and design firm Electric Bowery to transform the hotel with sensible upgrades and new-look interiors.

A large workshop

A large workshop

Josh Cho Photography

“Our design and architecture team worked with the Palm Springs Historic Site Preservation Board to gain approval for several exterior renovation elements such as paint color, fixtures, and native plantings,” says Schneider. The board looked closely at the materials and color palettes to ensure they blend into the desert landscape, hold up well over time, and match the history of the property. Jewel-toned blue and green Zellige tiles are found in bathrooms, kitchens and kitchenettes, while soft furnishings include Otomi-patterned pillows and upholstery in warm corals and olive green . The pre-existing Saltillo tile has also been brought back to life, emphasizing the sense of cohesion and authenticity.

Each hotel in the Casetta Group has a lucky charm, and for Casa Cody they chose a horseshoe, placed upright on the door frame of each room, which pays homage to the founder’s equestrian roots.

One of the few documented adobes in Palm Springs, Schneider says Adobe House and Harriet’s Cottage are two of the most in-demand lodgings. “I like the Adobe the most, just walk in and feel the whole story, but the Olympic Cottage and Winter’s House are great too, and I love the studios around the kidney shaped pool . I don’t think there’s a bad room here, but something intriguing about the property is that you can come back and experience it a little differently each time. It’s not cookie cutter like many hotels.

The winter house

The winter house

Josh Cho Photography

Opera star Lawrence Tibbett’s piano was stored under a specially constructed stage in the Adobe House and brought out for parties and performances. The piano is long gone, but the scene remains. (This is where brides like to take their dress photos before saying yes.) Around the South Lawn (a popular location for these wedding ceremonies) are the El Rincon Apartments, with original units transplanted from the estate of Francis Crocker, the “father” of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

On this side of the property, a new entrance (draped in bougainvillea but currently under construction and slated to open early next year) will include a reception area and gift shop, the latter stocked with items locally made, and maybe not-need-but-want things like Moroccan slippers. Additionally, Schneider says family photos of Harriet’s great-granddaughter will feature at the hotel, in another nod to the estate’s heritage and its founder. “We are very close to the former owner of Casa Cody, Frank Tysen, who introduced us to Sharon. She is fabulous and lives in Los Angeles but came to the property and shared all these old photos with us,” she says. “We plan to make prints and postcards for sale in the shop next year.”

A market will also offer take-out drinks and snacks that can be purchased and enjoyed anywhere. For now, guests can just pick fruit from the citrus trees (tweezers are provided and juice kits can be requested from the concierge), sit by the pool, soak up the views, and the low-key ambience of Palm Springs’ oldest farm. hotel — undoubtedly one of his most charming.

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