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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Santa Monica

Photo: Santa Monica Magazine

On a recent whirlwind trip to Santa Monica, I had a short list of things I wanted to do and see. Shopping on the third street promenade, check. Visit the Santa Monica pier, check. Bike ride along the beach to Venice and watch some world class skateboarding, done! Always at the top of my list when traveling is seeing the architectural landmarks and curiosities of the area. June gloom hung on well into July during our trip but we lucked out the day we visited #1 one my list, The Annenberg Beach House, which encompasses 5 gorgeous beach front acres!

Photo: Marie Brady

In 1929, William Randolph Hearst commissioned Julia Morgan to design a stunning 3 floor, 34 bedroom Georgian mansion, 3 guest houses tennis courts and 2 pools on the beach for his mistress, Marion Davies, For 17 years they threw elaborate parties with all of Hollywood's elite of the era. One docent told me many of these parties were often fundraising efforts to help during the great depression and WWII. She still has a children's wing at UCLA named for her.

Photo: Library of Moving Images

Photo: Library of Moving Images

Photo: Library of Moving Images

In 1947, after a property tax disputes arose, Davies sold the home for $600,000 to private investors and then to the State and finally the City of Santa Monica purchased the property. It had initially been turned into a hotel called Oceanhouse . There were not enough rooms to make a go of it as a hotel, however. The main mansion was demolished in 1956 while a private club called the Sand and Sea Club remained active until 1991. The city opened up the road in front of the club which had previously been closed to the public. Many scenes from the show, Beverley Hill 90210 were filmed there. After the Northridge quake in 1994, the property was further damaged red tagged . The city pondered what to do with this landmark and where the money would come from to bring it back to life. The price tag on the rehabilitation was put at 18 million dollars.

Remaining, restored guest house
Photo: Marie Brady

In stepped Wallis Annenberg, daughter of Walter Annenberg and member of one of the biggest philanthropic families in the country. Annenberg had been a member of the Sand and Sea Club for 30 years and had many wonderful memories of her days at the beach club. She wanted the club to be reborn as a place for the public to enjoy. She contributed 27 million of the 35 million dollars needed for the project.

The city and historic groups also rehabilitated the remaining guest house. The house was is open to the public for tours and has some really cool interactive features!

Photo: Marie Brady

Photo: Marie Brady

The upstairs rooms are available with WiFi for laptop users to hang out in.

Photo: Marie Brady

Original detail in one of the upstairs bathrooms.

Photo: Marie Brady

This original detail had been painted over at some point, requiring extensive restoration to uncover the metal inlay.

Photo: Marie Brady

The architects, Frederick Fisher and Partners, approached designing a modern set of buildings around the existing pool, rehabilitating the original pool tiles. 16 white columns stand in place to signify the ghost of an outline that was once the original mansion.The new additions host an event building for rotating exhibits, a gym, changing rooms, gardens, and snack bar. The project received a Gold LEED rating from the Green Building Council. Thanks to Ms. Annenberg, the pool club is the only public beach club in the US!

All photos below by Marie Brady

On the way out of town, I was finally able to locate and drive by architect rock star, Frank Gehry's house! Turned out it was just a few blocks from where we were staying near Wilshire Blvd. Never one to blend in to the crowd, this house is typical of his deconstructionist post modern design.

Photo: Marie Brady

The one that got away: We spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to locate this last minute find from our mobile phones. In some posts, it was misidentified as one of the libraries in Santa Monica! It is in fact, one of the nations first LEED parking structures (Oxymoron's aside) and is the 29 million dollar, solar powered Civic Center Parking Garage for city employees.

Maybe next visit! I'm sure we missed many other must see landmarks before we headed out to San Diego but that just means we'll have another excuse for visiting Santa Monica.


Mary-Frances Cimo said...

Thanks for sharing this!

I have a picture of the Santa Monica parking garage in my office. It's one of my absolute favorites!

Kelly Berg said...

Thanks for that fascinating history of the Annenberg Beach House. I had never heard this story! (So many of these stories in LA.) That whole thing with Hearst and Davies was pretty scandalous!
Great post, Marie. Looks like you had a fun trip!

AB HOME Interiors said...

Great history lesson! And beautiful photos!

Cathleen Davidson said...

Interesting post. And I love the Santa Monica parking garage. Sustainable and Colorful!