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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Photo Essay: The Albert Frey House That Time Forgot

This year at Modernism Week in Palm Springs, I had the chance to be among the first to tour the "Forgotten Frey"—a.k.a. the Cree House.



It wasn't so much forgotten as hidden away. It's been occupied by private residents since it was erected in 1955. And it's only recently that the owners relented and allowed us to tromp around.



The Cree House only cost $40K to build into a rocky mountainside overlooking Cathedral City—but not just because it's rather petite, at only 1300 square feet.


It's a good example of architect Albert Frey's attempt to achieve a desired result with the least amount of material—and effort.



And the materials he used were relatively industrial grade—like the yellow corrugated fiberglass panels, which, at the time, were pretty avant-garde.



They make for a nice canopy over the carport...



...and frame the stunning view with a fair amount of shocking contrast.



That's where the Cree House and the Frey II—which the architect built for himself—diverge.



Both use the surrounding natural landscape...



...but at the Cree House, the asbestos-cement sheets that cover the exterior don't exactly blend into the desert...



...despite their sage green color.



Inside, the rock fireplace is still intact, and the furnishings are suitably retro—though not original. (And I suspect some were planted for the sake of these tours).



The kitchen, however, is a time capsule...



...featuring original, restored appliances...



...like the "Atomic Age" gas oven by Western Holly, which is as 1950s as any car that might be parked outside.



Undeniably, the best feature of this two-bedroom home is the view—but that's changed a lot in the last 65 years. In the 1940s, this hillside was barren—and had been earmarked for a new hotel that was to be designed by Frey.

When the developer, Raymond Cree, abandoned his plans, he had Frey build the small home instead.

Palm Springs and Cathedral City subsequently arose out of the desert below, replete with fast food restaurants, grocery stores, golf resorts, and amusement parks.

But at least behind it, you can still find the San Jacinto Mountains and the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation's Indian Canyons. (Unfortunately, that's not what the Cree House looks out upon.)

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: A Modernist Bachelor Pad Above Palm Springs
Photo Essay: Palm Springs Modernism Week, For a Day

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