borrego modern


William Cody, FAIA is among a number of Palm Springs based architects who have defined the mid 20th
century desert modern aesthetic. Born in 1916 in Dayton Ohio and raised in Los Angeles, Cody began working in architecture in the 1930's with Cliff May while attending the University of Southern California's School of Architecture. According to authors Alan Hess and Andrew Danish in Palm Springs Weekend, Cody was initially confused and angered by Modernism and that his designs echo a care for warmth and lifestyle rather than those of overriding theoretical purity. He is described by architect Donald Wexler, with whom Cody worked in the 1950's as earning the nickname "Wild Bill" for his social life after work hours. Among Cody's first desert designs was the 1947 Del Marcos Hotel, followed by numerous Palm Springs projects including the conversion of the Thunderbird Dude Ranch to the Thunderbird Country Club and later the Tamarisk and El Dorado Country Clubs.

Borrego Springs - De Anza Country Club

It was this work at the Palm Springs country clubs that brought Cody to the attention of George Kuhrts, who in 1953 was leading the development of de Anza Desert Country Club; Borrego Springs largest and most important development for its time. Golf course designer Lawrence Hughes was contracted to design the de Anza course. On several Hughes projects Cody had designed the clubhouses and some residences. It seems probable that when Kuhrts was looking to repeat the success of Palm Springs, he not only chose Lawrence Hughes but William Cody for initial plans and designs. The Borrego Sun reports in September, 1954 that the final subdivision map has been completed and approved and in July, 1955:

"The site selected for the club house commands a superlative view of Borrego Valley, the golf course and the mountains on the horizon. The club house will be the hub of activities for the adjacent residential community. While the architecture will be contemporary modern, it will convey the mood of the desert."

In May of 1956, at a meeting of the shareholders to determine the order for lot purchase, "Kuhrts also announced that William Cody, who was the architect for clubhouses at Thunderbird and Tamarisk in Palm Springs, the Silverado Country Club in San Francisco and the Mission Valley Country Club in San Diego, has started initial plans for the clubhouse that will be erected at the new course." 1 And in June 1956, "A master plot plan for the entire area has been drafted by William Cody, San Diego and Palm Springs architect, and he will soon submit detailed drawings for a clubhouse…" 2

In discussion with the librarians for the William Cody archive at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly), it appears Cody completed several designs for de Anza Country Club and homes 3 The plans at Cal Poly may hold the key in answering which designs were Cody's; and whether or not they were built as designed or altered.
In October 1956, a Borrego Sun front page rendering of the proposed clubhouse no longer refers to Cody as the architect, but attributes the design and construction to Hal Martinez. A year later a new and larger clubhouse design and Fairway Cottage project would be turned over to Borrego Springs and Julian Architect Richard Zerbe. In an interview with Beverly Kuhrts, the widow of George Kuhrts, the question was raised as to why the change in architects. While she does not have direct knowledge concerning the change, she believes money was most likely the reason - that Cody would have been more expensive than Zerbe, and at the time money was tight. 4

Residential Designs

William Cody has several residential designs in the Borrego Valley. The Borrego Sun reported in March 1957 on the growth in valley development:

"William Cody, the noted Palm Springs architect has been commissioned to design several homes, particularly in the golf course area, and Valley developers hope that his influence will set a new standard for future construction in this area.

1 Borrego Sun, May, 1956, Page 1
2 Borrego Sun, June 1956, Page 1
3 The author is planning a trip to Cal Poly to review the plans.
4 Beverly Kuhrts Interview, 2006
Late last month final plans were completed and a contract awarded for a $100,000 home construction program announced in January by George Kuhrts of Borrego Valley Associates.
This house, designed by Cody and to be built by Martinez Construction Co. will be located on an estate lot on Verbena Drive and Lazy S Road overlooking the golf course.
The 1,500 square foot house will feature the ultimate in design for desert living with a sheltered patio on the south side to which direct access is available from the living room, kitchen and bath. The sheltered effect is achieved through an overhanging roof which juts out over the patio.

The house will have two baths and three bedrooms, which can be converted into one bedroom, a den and maid's room and any combination thereof.
Meanwhile, the first home, also designed by Cody and built by Martinez, was nearing completion in the same area and will be ready for occupancy this month.
Construction was also started last month on the palatial desert home designed by Cody and being built on golf course property for DiGiorgio Fruit Corp.

Of the two de Anza Golf Course homes attributed to Cody, the most spectacular is the design for the DiGiorgio Fruit Corporation (J.S. DiGiorgio, Phillip DiGiorgio and Robert DiGiorgio). 5



5 Author's Note: There is now some question as to whether or not this home can be attributed to Cody. We first attributed the home to

Cody in 2006, when it appeared on the Borrego Modern Tour produced by SOHO and the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce. This

attribution was based on references in the Borrego Sun. As the Borrego Modern website went into production, we came across some new

information that raised the question: Is this the work of Cody? A Borrego Sun article says the work is Cody's. However in the San Diego

Union Tribune photo archive (now housed at the San Diego Historical Society) the original negative for the photo of the rendering has been

located. The photo used in the Borrego Sun was cropped - the information that was removed was the title: DiGiorgio Fruit Company

Residence, de Anza Desert Country Club and Leo A. Raffaelli, AIA. This begs the question: Was the design's Cody's or Rafaela? Or did

Raffaelli only do the rendering? Todd Pitman (who is much more skilled in the ways of the architectural world than I am) tells me that Ron

Davis, a partner of Cody (Cody, Hester and Davis) told him that he remembers the plans being on the boards while he worked in Cody's

Palm Springs office. Also, we have an article in the Sun that attributes the home to Cody On the other side of the coin, we have the

complete negative of the photo and in an email exchange with a librarian at the Cody library, there is no work listed for DiGiorgio Fruit

Company. Its mysteries like this that makes research interesting and exciting. I'm hoping that a trip to the Cody archive will help shed light

on this.

The 2 bedroom, 2 bath home features a semi-circular stone wall (the stones gathered from the surrounding desert) that frames a private patio and becomes the homes fireplace.

Originally the home was built with 3 bedrooms, the present owner using the third bedroom space as the dining area. Present is the "wall pocket" that previously housed a large accordion door to provide the bedroom with privacy from the main living areas. While the kitchen countertops have been replaced, the original cabinets remain. Original tile in the guest bath has been found after removing layers of bright yellow paint. The window treatments in the main living room are believed to be original. This home has also been prominently featured over the years in articles on Borrego/de Anza development in the Borrego Sun and San Diego Union Tribune.

Robert DiGiorgio was a catalyst in the development of Borrego Springs and de Anza Country Club, and would serve as the Club's President. This home is significant for its association with the DiGiorgios' and their company's agricultural interests and development of Borrego, and its association with Cody, one of the pre-eminent desert architects of the mid 20th century.

The other de Anza Cody home (Lot 8) was built for George Kurhts and is more modest in design. It was substantially altered in 2006.

Fairway Cottages
In September of 1957 - the De Anza Divots (the newsletter for the country club was originally published in the Borrego Sun announced:

"Plans have been completed for the building of four rental units on the course north of the present clubhouse. The luxury units, which will be available to club members for rent, will cost between $20,000 and $30,000 each. They were designed by William Cody, Palm Springs architect"
Shortly after publication, The Fairway Cottage project was turned over Richard Zerbe. It is not clear as of this writing whether these first four units were built from plans by Cody. Zerbe did complete the designs for the remaining 8 units that were constructed from 1957-1959. This mystery may be answered after examination of the Cody archives.

Authors Hess and Danish write of Cody's work:
" (His work)…ranks him among the best of mid-century California designers ---a field already crowded with talents like Eames, Koenig, Ellwood, Lautner, Frey, Neutra, Esherick, Callister, Jones and many others. It is time for his work to become more widely known."