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
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
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.
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
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
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.
In September of 1957 - the De Anza Divots (the newsletter
for the country club was originally published in the Borrego
"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."