Movie Colony Hotel

Albert Frey had longed to apply the teachings of his friend, the great modernist designer LeCorbusier, when he was assigned to design the San Jacinto Hotel in 1935. At the time, however, the predominant and accepted architectural style in Palm Springs was Spanish colonial revival, and yet Mr. Frey’s resulting interpretation of that style had the bones of a modernist’s structure. Seventy-plus years later, the hotel has finally become what Mr. Frey (pronounced f-ray) intended… a pure example of Desert Modernism.

Mr. Frey’s creation, now known as the Movie Colony Hotel, is a cluster of 16, townhouses and guest rooms. Because the hotel is so compact, any room is just steps from the pool and spa. However, that 123 movies didn’t stop rock star Jim Morrison from leaping recklessly into the pool from the upper floor of the Sinatra townhouse. His foolish act was seen only by his friends and other guests within the hotel’s walled compound, typical of Palm Spring’s cloistered accommodations.

Identifying Palm Springs’ hotels can be difficult due to their walled privacy. A boulevard of San Pedro Cactus along a sidewalk on North Indian Canyon Drive guides you to the hotel’s entrance designed by modernist architect Frank Urrutia. Bowing to Mr. Frey’s use of indestructible materials, Mr. Urrutia added a cantilevered overhang of corrugated and polished metal that wasn’t there when Mr. Frey first conceived the San Jacinto. He then warmed Mr. Frey’s dazzlingly white cubist form by draping friendly yellow canvas behind pipe railing. Magenta bougainvillea, queen palms, San Pedro and beavertail cactus and aromatic ginger further soften the hotel’s angularity…

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