The Orchid Tree InnOct 14th, 2015 | By Lindsay | Category: This and That
It’s no secret that there’s nothing this stalker loves more than an abandoned site. Throw in a waterless pool and I am an even happier camper. So a couple of months ago when I passed by an abandoned motel that appeared extremely accessible in downtown Palm Springs, I immediately pulled the car over for a closer look. I came to find out the property was a shuttered 1930s-era hotel known as the Orchid Tree Inn and that it not only boasted three pools, but had been deserted for over a decade. My kinda place!
The Orchid Tree Inn is a sprawling, ramshackle property that takes up almost an entire block of land. That was not always the case, though. The motel, which was founded in 1934 by a man named Horace L. Cook, was originally established as a tiny 10-bungalow complex known as the Sakarah Apartments. The site offered both short- and long-term lodging. The original ten units still stand to this day. One is pictured below.
When Cook decided to relocate to Los Angeles in 1941, he sold the property to Beverly Hills contractor Harry Irvin, who renamed it the Apache Lodge.
By 1948, the name had been changed yet again, this time to the Bel-Ardo Villas. The complex was finally given its current moniker, the Orchid Tree Inn, in 1952. A pool was also added to the property’s central courtyard at that time. You can check out some postcard images of what the site looked like in those days here and here. The area featured on the postcards is the same area pictured below. As you can see, despite the hotel being abandoned for over a decade, it still looks very much the same today as it did then.
During its heyday, the Orchid Tree Inn played host to several Old Hollywood celebrities including William Holden, Troy Donahue, Tab Hunter, Anthony Perkins, and Rosalind Russell.
Over the years, the owners of the inn purchased the many different properties surrounding it. It eventually came to be made up of seven different structures and complexes, the oldest of which, a private residence, dated back to 1915. The home, which was Craftsman in style, belonged to a Christian Science Practitioner named Genevieve Reilly for over 45 years. Sadly, it was destroyed in a fire in 2007 and all that currently remains of it is the stone archway pictured below.
According to a Historic Site Preservation Board report done on the Orchid Tree Inn in 2010, the archway was hand-laid.
From what I have been able to gather, I believe that the large stone pad visible below was the bungalow’s footprint.
A faraway view showing the footprint, the archway, and the motel units beyond and adjacent to them is pictured below.
At some point (I believe in the ‘90s), the Orchid Tree Inn acquired a neighboring motel known as the Desert House Inn that was originally built in 1941.
The Desert House Inn’s dry, but intact pool . . .
. . . hot tub . . .
. . . and fountain practically had me drooling!
While most of the Orchid Tree Inn’s acquisitions were Spanish in style, there was one mid-century modern building formerly located on the premises. When the nearby Premiere Apartments, originally designed by prolific architect Albert Frey in 1957, were threatened with demolition in 1972, the entire complex was moved onto a vacant plot of land on the Orchid Tree Inn premises. Sadly, that building was also burned in a fire in 2007 and no longer stands. It was formerly situated in the area pictured below.
The Google Street View images below were taken in 2007 and show what the Premiere Apartments looked like shortly after the fire. And you can check out some photocopied pictures of the building in its original state here.
The pool located behind the Premiere Apartments remains intact.
After over seven decades in business, the Orchid Tree Inn was shuttered in 2005 and has remained vacant ever since.
The hotel’s former owners held an estate sale during which its furnishings were sold in 2010. You can check out some photographs of the many items put up for sale here.
I was shocked – and delighted – at how photographically accessible the Orchid Tree Inn is.
Virtually all of the property is visible from the street.
Even through the chipped paint and crackling walls, it is apparent how beautiful it once was.
On a neighboring parcel of land sits the former Community Church, which was devastated by a fire in 2013. It has been left charred and dilapidated ever since.
The church was originally designed in 1935 by William Charles Tanner.
Developer Richard Weintraub is currently seeking the city’s approval to turn the Orchid Tree Inn and the Community Church into an 89-room luxury resort. He plans to revive the ten historic bungalows in the process. The property renderings looks absolutely gorgeous and, being that many portions of the original hotel will be kept intact, I hope the plans are approved and that new life is brought to the site. In the meantime, though, I sure enjoy passing by it in its current state.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The Orchid Tree Inn is located at 261 South Belardo Road in Palm Springs. The aerial view below denotes the many different properties that were added to the hotel throughout its history and what year they were originally built.