Julia Morgan was the leading woman architect of her time and is one of the nation’s most esteemed architects. She was also William Randolph Hearst’s favorite architect, and, among other things, designed the ocean-front estate that Hearst commissioned for his mistress, Marion Davies, one of Hollywood’s favorite actresses, hostesses, and, ultimately, one of its outstanding philanthropists.
The elaborate estate rose in 1929 on Santa Monica’s legendary Gold Coast, was the site of some of Hollywood’s most lavish parties, and was the largest house ever built on the storied California coast.
Davies sold it in 1947. It was a hotel for a while, and subsequently the Sand and Sea Club. The state owns the beach, and it contracted with the City to manage the property. The City ended the club’s lease in the late
1980s. By then, the old estate was only a shadow of itself, as the main building had been demolished decades earlier.
The 1994 Northridge earthquake did additional damage, and the property was red-tagged, and shut down. But philanthropist Wallis Annenberg literally saved it from the bulldozers with a grant that eventually totaled nearly
$30 million. Remnants of Davies era buildings were incorporated into a spare modern structure, the remaining guest house was faithfully restored, a swimming pool of Italian tile was rehabbed and it became the first public
beach club on the sand. Today, the elegant Annenberg Community Beach House is a new landmark, and the site of some of the most interesting and various events in the area.
Thursday, October 4, the opening reception of “Julia Morgan 2012: Contemporary Women Architects,” will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. and run through October 31.
A series of biographical/interview panels and images, the exhibit is inspired by Julia Morgan’s pioneering works and architectural legacy, and explores the lives and accomplishments of contemporary women architects.
It was created as part of the Julia Morgan 2012 Festival, a statewide pilot project of Landmarks California which focuses on the life and work of Julia Morgan, in collaboration with the Association for Women in Architecture + Design, Los Angeles.
Free admission. For more information: 310-458-4904. The Annenberg Community Beach House, 415 Pacific Coast Highway.