History – the Horizon Hotel

William F. Cody
William F. Cody is seen standing on the left.

History History History Original Postcard

Originally called L’Horizon, The Horizon Hotel is one of the few remaining architecturally intact Mid-Century Modern hotels in Palm Springs. Situated on two and a half acres, the hotel features glorious views of the San Jacinto Mountains and spacious outdoor areas for recreation. The hotel was originally designed in 1952 by renowned architect William F. Cody as a private family retreat for the television producer, media mogul, oil tycoon and legendary hotel owner Jack Wrather (producer of Lassie and The Lone Ranger) and his wife, Hollywood actress Bonita “Bunny” Granville, as a retreat for their family and Hollywood friends. Bonita Granville was the child star of the Nancy Drew series of films, as well as playing the pivotal role of Mary in the original film adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour (entitled These Three), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. They built the Disneyland Hotel for their good friend, Walt Disney, and owned Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, The Queen Mary, and several other large hotels. They hosted legendary parties in the “Hollywood” style, flying in dozens of celebrities to spend weekends with their family lounging around the pool at what was then referred to as L’Horizon.

In February 2004, the hotel was purchased with a mission to revive the property’s original charm and understated elegance. A crucial aspect of the deal involved acquiring the original blueprints and numerous vintage photographs by famed photographer Julius Shulman, thus allowing the preservation of the hotel’s original character, flawlessly mixed with the comforts of today.

The property’s iconic mid-century modern architecture was carefully preserved, while new amenities, such a poolside bar and Jacuzzi were added. In May 2006, the 22-room hotel once again opened its doors, thus beginning a new chapter for this legendary desert getaway.

William F. Cody, FAIA, was born in 1916 in Dayton, Ohio, and is one of the founding fathers of the Palm Springs Modern style. He studied architecture at the University of Southern California, while working for architect Cliff May. He went on to build numerous country club and residential projects (including Eldorado, Thunderbird and Tamarisk country clubs, as well as homes for Walt Disney, Joan Fontaine, Randolph Scott, and the clubhouse at Bing Crosby’s Blue Skies Village). Many classic Cody touches are very much in evidence at the Hotel, such as the seamless indoor/outdoor flow, striking use of subtle natural materials, extensive use of glass, and thoughtful gestures, such as never having windows that directly face into another room; thus, creating a sense of privacy from your adjacent neighbors. Through the years, much of Cody’s other great works have been lost. However, the careful renovation of The Horizon Hotel ensures that Cody’s important contribution to modern architecture will be appreciated for future generations.