According to the City, it’ll be a “a day of discovery and a day of celebration” when the $29 million Annenberg Beach House at 415 Pacific Coast Highway opens later today.
The Beach House, which was largely underwritten by a grant from the Annenberg Foundation, is the third and leanest iteration of the original, the Marion Davies estate. The largest and grandest estate on the California Coast, it was built by publishing mogul, William Randolph Hearst, for Davies, a talented and popular Hollywood star as well as his mistress.
Its main house had 118 rooms and 58 bathrooms. There were also three guest houses, two swimming pools, tennis courts, kennels and garages, Designed by America’s first prominent woman architect, Julia Morgan, it was built in 1929, and, for the next decade, it was the social center of the large Hollywood colony in Santa Monica.
Davies stopped making movies in 1937 and, in 1947, she sold the property to the State, which leased it to the City of Santa Monica, which, in turn, leased it to a hotel, Ocean House, whose owner, inexplicably, demolished the 118-room main house.
The hotel was followed by Doug Badt’s Sand and Sea Club. Badt added cabanas and dressing rooms for club members.
Wallis Annenberg. on making the grant, cited her fond memories of the Sand and Sea, the opportunity to finally chronicle the Hollywood-Santa Monica connection, and the creation of a public beach club as the primary bases for her interest in the project.
In the late 1980s, restaurateur Michael McCarty proposed replacing the Sad and Sea Club with a new “luxury hotel.” The City loved the idea. Residents didn’t, and put a measure on the ballot that would ban any new hotels on the beach. A noisy, rancorous battle ensued, with residents prevailing over City Hall and
In a fit of pique, the City immediately canceled Badt’s lease, and took control of the property, but had no idea what to do with it. Its principal role was serving as a location for the TV series, “Beverly Hills 90212.”
Following the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the City red-tagged the property and wrapped it in chainlink fencing, And, in the decade that followed, the proudest, most glamorous spot on the coast was reduced to a wreck of a place, the victim of time and neglect, the saddest sight on the coast.
By the time the resurrection got underway, most of the remaining buildings had been demolished. Only one of Davies’ guest houses and one swimming pool remain. They have been retired and supplemented by new buildings.
Today’s beach party will feature some sort of ribbon-cutting with Annenberg and City officials, a community picnic, volleyball games, yoga classes, a variety of performances and kite flying.
According to the City, “Visitors are encouraged to walk, bike or shuttle to the opening as no onsite parking will be available. Free shuttle service will be available throughout the day from the Santa Monica Civic Center (4th Street & Olympic Drive, just off the 10 freeway).”
A mega-traffic jam is inevitable.
Beginning tomorrow, April 26, the Beach House will be open daily and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to sunset.