Resting in the shadows of the San Jacinto Mountains sits the eclectic complex known as Casa Cody, said to be Palm Springs’ oldest and longest continually operating hotel. This unique hotel has an interesting history, but perhaps its gold medal winning room is its vintage Olympic Village cottage. Unless you are one of the greatest athletes in the world, it is unlikely you will be able to set foot inside one of the villages create for athletes of the Olympic games, except if you stay at Casa Cody that is, and that’s precisely what Patrick and I did last week.
Casa Cody started out as just that, the home of the Cody couple, Harriet and her husband, Harold. Harriet Dowie was born in Philadelphia, far away from the sun and palms of California. Later she met Harold Bryant Cody, an architect, and in 1910 they married. When Harold came down with tuberculosis, they moved to Hollywood and Harold began working for the Hunt Company, one of LA’s architecture firms. According to multiple sources, and even the plaque at the hotel, Harriet is stated as being the cousin of wild west showman Buffalo Bill Cody, however, it is never clarified whether this is by marriage (as I assume) or a rare coincidence that she married someone with the same last name as a relative.
The dry desert air of Palm Springs had made it a perfect location for health resorts, and many who suffered from tuberculosis sought relief in the among the palms and cacti. The Codys made the move to Palm Springs when Harold had a tuberculosis relapse, traveling via wagon in 1916. When they arrived they rented a home neighboring the Desert Inn, and eventually bought property to build a home.
In 1924 Harold passed away, and Harriet opened a livery, renting horses for $5 a day and boarding them for the likes of famed western stars such as Tom Mix. Harriet eventually decided to board more than just horses, and added a hotel to her property sometime in the 1920s or 1930s, sources vary. The added hotel building was designed by Myron Hunt, who also designed Pasadena’s famed Rose Bowl.
Meanwhile, 100 miles away Los Angeles played host to the 1932 Summer Olympic Games, for the first of what will soon be three times, as LA will host yet again in 2028. The Los Angeles summer games would offer a couple of firsts, including the first athlete village in modern Olympic history.
Baldwin Hills was selected as the location for the village, due to it being roughly ten degrees cooler than other areas, to help accommodate athletes from cooler countries, and relative proximity to the event venues. The village was built using 550 “portable” prefabricated houses, designed by H.O. Davis, to house the nearly 2,000 male athletes who would be arriving in the City of Angels. You can see one of these houses being put up in this video, which says 50 were built per day leading up to the games. At 24 by 10 feet, each house consisted of two ten foot by ten foot rooms, with a shared shower, with each room housing two athletes, and offered two beds, two chairs, and a dresser. In addition to the houses, the athlete village featured a post office, radio station, fire station, hospital, dentist, cinema, and athletes could dine at one of five dining halls. Curious about the female athletes? As there were only 125 of them, they stayed at Chapman Park Hotel.
After the athletes had won their medals and headed home, the 550 houses went up for sale, $140 for an unfurnished unit, and $215 for a furnished one. Harriet purchased four of them, relocating them to her expanding hotel in Palm Springs. Sadly three were demolished in the 1950s, leaving the one remaining one that we stayed in. The cottage is an absolute dream to stay in, featuring a living area with TV, kitchen, two bathrooms, and spacious bedroom, plus a private lounging area and outdoor dining space. It’s also just steps away from the hot tub, and close to one of the pools and the lobby where they serve breakfast.
Another, although more debatable, first at the LA games was that of the first Olympic mascot, Smoky, a black Scottish terrier, who was either born in the Olympic Village just prior to the games, or he wandered into the village, sources vary. Either way he was beloved by the athletes and unofficially given the status of mascot, complete with a little vest embroidered with the Olympic rings and “MASCOT” in bold letters.
What of the other Olympic cottages? I read some went as far as Germany, but I’m only aware of one other one, which is still in Los Angeles. During a recent visit to Olvera Street, Patrick pointed out a hand painted tile sign noting one of the shops was one of the 1932 Olympic village buildings. If you know of any more, let me know in the comments below!
Stay inside the Olympic Cottage or one of the other fine rooms at Casa Cody at 175 S. Cahuilla Road, just two blocks from the heart of Palm Springs. For more details, including booking, please visit their website.