William F. Cody Papers, (MS 007)
William Francis Cody, FAIA (1916-1978) was an influential Desert Modern architect who practiced in Palm Springs at the peak of the Modernist movement. Between 1946 and 1973, Cody maintained a diverse practice in California's Coachella Valley, designing country clubs, residences, hotels, library, and church projects in the local communities of Palm Springs, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, and in southern California, Arizona, Mexico, and Cuba.
Cody was born on 19 June 1916 in Dayton, Ohio, to William F. Cody, Sr., who owned a haberdashery and Anna Elizabeth Shadle, an interior designer. Cody and his brother John were both influenced by their mother's passion for art and architecture.
By 1930, the Codys had relocated to Los Angeles. While attending Beverly Hills High School, Cody designed and built stage sets for school plays with the son of Warner Bros. founder Jack L. Warner. Cody graduated from high school in April 1934 and began work the following year for architects Heath Warton and Asa Hudson while attending Santa Monica Junior College, graduating in 1939.
In 1940, Cody enrolled in the College of Architecture and Fine Arts at the University of Southern California, earning a Bachelor's degree in Architecture in 1942. At USC Cody was exposed to the Bauhaus style of art, architecture, and interior design, which emphasized a minimalist Modernism that would come to define Cody's own work. Another influence during this time was Cody's work for Cliff May, a leading southern California licensed building designer. According to a résumé found in the collection and his FAIA nomination, Cody worked in 1944 on May's influential Pace-Setter House, a modernized, low-cost California ranch house design.
That same year, Cody married Winifred Smith, with whom he had three daughters: Diane Louise (b. 1944), Winifred Lynne (b. 1948), and Catherine Louise (b. 1954).
In 1943, he worked for an Oakland engineering firm on a Kaiser steel plant in Fontana, California. That same year, he also worked for the San Francisco firm of Blanchard, Maher and Ward on Navy installations on Treasure Island. The following year, he worked for Marsh, Smith and Powell in Los Angeles, primarily on National Design Award-winning elementary and high school buildings in California and Arizona.
In March of 1946, Cody was licensed to practice architecture in California and secured his Arizona license the following month. In 1948, he applied for membership in the American Institute of Architects, listing his office location on Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles.
In 1945, Cody was retained to alter the Desert Inn, his first commission in Palm Springs. In 1947 he completed the Del Marcos Hotel, his first independent commission, which was recognized by the AIA Southern California Chapter with an honorable mention.
Post-World War II Palm Springs was becoming a fashionable weekend and winter retreat for the rich and famous, and Cody's career flourished along with the city. He moved his practice and his family to Palm Springs. In 1950, he was retained to lead the successful conversion of the Thunderbird Dude Ranch into the Thunderbird Country Club, which led to commissions to design or alter clubhouses, recreational facilities, and residential developments at Eldorado Country Club (with Ernest J. Kump), Tamarisk Country Club, the Racquet Club, and the Tennis Club. In 1960, he began almost a decade of work altering and expanding the Palm Springs Spa Hotel.
Cody's specialization in country club clubhouses with related residential developments led to additional commissions in California, Arizona, Texas, Cuba, and Mexico. His residential projects emphasized key elements of Modernism: simplicity of form, natural light, and large windows offering a seamless connection between residential interiors and the outdoors.
A member of AIA since 1948, Cody was elevated to Fellowship in the AIA in 1965, with the following projects cited on his nomination as Achievements in Architectural Design:
- William Francis Cody Residence | Palm Springs, CA 1946
- Del Marcos Hotel | Palm Springs, CA 1947
- Levin Residence | Palm Springs, CA 1948
- Haines Office Building | Beverly Hills, CA 1949
- Mission Valley Country Club | San Diego, CA 1953
- Jorgensen Residence | Palm Springs, CA 1954
- Springs Restaurant | Palm Springs, CA 1956
- El Dorado Country Club | Palm Desert, CA 1958
- Spa Bathhouse | Palm Springs, CA 1958
- Clare Residence | Palm Springs, CA 1959
- Nicoletti Residence | Palm Springs, CA 1960
- Palo Alto Hills Golf and Country Club | Palo Alto, CA 1961
- Roundhill Country Club | Alamo, CA 1961
- Sloane Residence | La Quinta, CA 1961
- Western Savings & Loan | Tempe, AZ 1961
- Cannon Residence | Palm Desert, CA 1962
- Driggs Residence | Phoenix, AZ 1962
- Spa Bathhouse — Hotel | Palm Springs, CA 1962
- Abernathy Residence | Palm Springs, CA 1963
- Shamel Residence | Palm Desert, CA 1963
- Western Savings & Loan | Phoenix, AZ 1964
Cody also worked extensively with Robert P. McCulloch, an industrialist who parlayed his racing-engine manufacturing fortune into diverse business interests, including oil and gas exploration, electronics, and land and real estate development. When McCulloch founded Lake Havasu City, Arizona, Cody designed, altered and added to McCulloch Corporation chain saw plants there. For McCulloch Properties, Inc., Cody designed Arizona residential developments in Lake Havasu City and Fountain Hills in Scottsdale, and an Eldorado tract in Indian Wells, California. He also designed a McCulloch corporate complex near LAX and alterations and an addition to a house for McCulloch and his wife at Thunderbird Country Club in 1972.
Cody's last notable commissions were located in Palm Springs: St. Theresa Catholic Church and Convent (1966-68) and buildings for the Palm Springs Planning Collaborative, including the Palm Springs Public Library (1973) in the Brutalist style. A stroke then limited his career until his death on 29 August 1978 in Palm Springs.
- The American Institute of Architects Archives, Record Group 803, Membership Files. "Application for Membership," 1948, "Application for Corporate Membership," 1948, and "Nomination for Fellowship — Case Record," 1964.
- The Architecture of William F. Cody: A Desert Retrospective. Palm Springs: Palm Springs Preservation Foundation, 2004.
- Cygelman, Adéle. Palm Springs Modern: Houses in the California Desert. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1999.
- "Experience Record of William F. Cody," Box 2 Folder 2, William F. Cody Papers, Special Collections, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, c. 1948
- Hess, Alan and Andrew Danish. Palm Springs Weekend: The Architecture and Design of a Midcentury Oasis. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2001.
- Hess, Alan. Forgotten Modern: California Houses 1940-1970. Santa Barbara: Gibbs Smith, 2007.