The Monkey Tree Maintains its Midcentury Charm

This Palm Springs hotel may have an even more exciting history than previously realized.

Lisa Marie Hart Current Guide, History, Hotels & Resorts

The Monkey Tree has served tourists for over a half-century.

Whether relaxing by the craggy original stone fireplace in the lounge or slipping into the pool and hot tub after a day of home tours, guests need no longer debate about who is responsible for The Monkey Tree’s handsome bones.

The storied midcentury hotel, built in 1960, reopened under its original name six years ago, offering 16 renovated suites tucked into a pocket off East Racquet Club Road. While the website credits “celebrated architect Albert Frey” as the name behind this butterfly roofline, authors and historians beg to differ.

Among them, Brad Dunning recently revisited Frey’s body of work in preparation for a 2024 Palm Springs Art Museum exhibition and book. Frey meticulously documented his projects, yet neither Dunning nor his research assistant, Luke Leuschner, could excavate a Monkey Tree scribble or sketch from the archives, let alone a blueprint, to link him to the property.

The unsung talent here is Colleen Carol Crist, daughter of local midcentury designer/builder A. Belden Crist. Historian Melissa Riche originally found that Colleen had served as an architectural drafter for William Cody and E. Stewart Williams. Prominent in Colleen’s obituary is the design and contracting of the “Monkey Tree Inn.” The ongoing confusion has stemmed from a tidbit published in a book by architectural historian Joseph Rosa, to whom Frey had mentioned a preliminary scheme for the hotel, a mere seed never sowed.

The Monkey Tree can claim “an even more interesting legacy” with Crist, notes Leuschner, “as one of the few woman-designed midcentury buildings in Palm Springs.”


For a memorable stay, book the cheekily named Presidential Suite, with a private enclosed yard and back entry door. Rumors point to a 1962 rendezvous between JFK and Marilyn Monroe in that very room.