Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Out & About--All About the Historic Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica

In addition to the incredible life of 1920s and 30s screen star Marion Davies, her Santa Monica beachfront estate has its own tale to tell.  Built by longtime love, publisher William Randolph Hearst, the estate was Marion's home in Los Angeles while she worked at MGM and Warner Brothers until the late 1930s.  Julia Morgan, Hearst's primary architect--who also designed the palatial San Simeon in Central California--developed the five acre property to consist of a 100+ room mansion, three guest houses, tennis courts, and pools.  Every single person from the heyday of Hollywood worked and played at the Beach House...Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Jean Harlow and William Powell, Carole Lombard and Clark Gable, and on and on.  

The Beach House was Marion's until she sold it in 1947, and then the place began to struggle somewhat as it changed hands:
  • 1947--sold to Joseph Drown, who created the Oceanhouse (Marion's main house converted into a hotel) and the Sand & Sea Club
  • 1956--Oceanhouse demolished; Sand & Sea Club continues
  • 1959--sold to State of California; Sand & Sea Club continues
  • 1990s--sold to City of Santa Monica; Sand & Sea Club turned into 415 PCH
  • 1994--Northridge earthquake severely damages all site structures
  • 1994 - 2009--City of Santa Monica enlists help of Wallis Annenberg, the Annenberg Foundation, and architect Frederick Fisher to reimagine the property as a combination of historical preservation and a modern, environmentally conscious public space
In today's reincarnation, the Annenberg Beach House, you can see how Marion's mansion served as an architectural inspiration to Fisher who echoed its stately columns in the new community building.  The space offers many things to its visitors: an art gallery, cultural event space, exercise center, and sundeck with incredible views of Santa Monica beach and the Pacific Ocean.  There is also a splashpad in the courtyard between the buildings, the Beach Cafe, and a children's play area that extends out onto the sand.  One of the most impressive aspects about this multi-use property is how the Annenberg Beach House reflects Santa Monica's commitment to sustainability.  The building materials, water efficiency, power, and heating and cooling are all environmentally sound and awarded a Gold LEED rating from the U. S. Green Building Council. It's an incredible role model for other cities and businesses looking to evolve by showing you don't sacrifice anything by going green.

But perhaps my favorite part of the present Beach House are those structures that came from its past--the Guest House and pool.  Marion's original pool--made of marble and once enjoyed by all the luminaries of Old Hollywood as well as Winston Churchill, Charles Lindbergh, and Albert Einstein--now offers itself as a public pool for everyone.  And the original north Guest House has been beautifully restored for all to see as well. You can feel Marion's energy and that of its other famous tenants--Marlene Dietrich, Gloria Swanson, and the Kennedy family among others--within its walls.  Once you take a tour and relax in one of its rooms overlooking the ocean, you'll see that it's a little bit of heaven on earth.

Because I'm a resident of Santa Monica and love the Annenberg Beach House so much, I took my friends there to film the first video of GlamAmor's Out & About series.  We enjoyed the most gorgeous weather you can imagine--sunny and hot with clear blue skies, which is rare right along the coast.  We also enjoyed spending time with the docents, particularly our special guest, Kay Pattison, who passionately shared stories about Marion and the property's history.  Take a look at the video on Marion and the Beach House or these photos that captured some of our incredible day.

The modern design of the Annenberg Beach House (above) echoes the architecture of the
original Beach House and its sprawling Santa Monica estate

Marion on the steps outside the Beach House and
its interiors starting with the reception room

Dining room of the Beach House, imported in its entirety from France, walls and all

Library of the Beach House with paneling from 18th century wood carver Grinling Gibbons

The still standing Guest House is shown above (on right)
and below (on left) as actor John Payne readies to paddle out for a surf

Marion Davies' restored Guest House today

Beach day at the Beach House:  Marigold and white damask cotton fit and flare dress by GlamAmor, 
1960s grape leather frame bag, Jessica Simpson grape suede peeptoe pums, 
pearl and gold drop earrings, pearl choker (repurposed as a bracelet), and gold Ray Ban Aviators

Guest House entryway

The stairway, that Julia Morgan built similar to that in the main house,
and its original Tiffany & Co. chandelier

Special guest for our visit, the passionate and knowledgeable Kay Pattison

The dining room with its original Tiffany & Co. chandelier
filled with photos of their many costume parties

The restored bathrooms upstairs with their incredible tile work, starting with the "Lilypad" bathroom

The living room facing the ocean with its original Tiffany & Co. chandelier 
and original marble fireplace likely chosen from San Simeon's extensive collection

Adjusting Kay's microphone for our opening segment in the living room

Close ups of the restored crown molding (above) and
living room's original Tiffany & Co. chandeliers

View of the beach and ocean from the west-facing porch

View north from the Guest House porch circa 1934

Views west (above) and south toward the Santa Monica Pier where fans 
Marion, Clark Gable, and Carole Lombard used to go to ride the rollercoaster

The pool beneath the original Beach House mansion circa 1929

On today's mezzanine overlooking the pool and ocean

Kay and I discussing the artistry of the pool while Jonathan adjusts for sound

Renovation included bringing in more marble from the Vermont quarry that supplied the original pool
and restoration of the fish pool tiles that are likely from artisans in California

Marion relaxing poolside next to the bridge that's no longer there

Finishing the day with a summery sunset

Images are property of GlamAmor or 
used with permission from BISON ARCHIVE and LIBRARY OF MOVING IMAGES

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...