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Sands of Time: Touring the Annenberg Beach House

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When the motion picture industry took root in Los Angeles in the 1920s, the rich and famous would escape the heat down at the beach. The oceanfront properties along the Pacific in Santa Monica were known as the "Gold Coast" thanks in part to the luminaries who frolicked on its shore and built enchanting cottages and mansions by the sea to get away from the rigors of movie-making.

Publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst turned to his mistress, the actress Marion Davies, one day in 1926 and asked if she would like a house here at the beach. Of course she did, and so Hearst bought 15 parcels of land--at a time when buying a pair of parcels was considered the height of opulence--from owner Will Rogers, and built the vivacious blond a palatial 118-room home (with 55 bathrooms), a guest house, a spectacular pool, and tennis courts where the couple could entertain in the lavish style they so enjoyed.

A long white line runs through the present-day property, which shows what was once the bulkhead in the days when the surf pounded on the sand as far up as the bike path runs now. The Annenberg Community Beach House sits where the Davies mansion once was, but little remains from the original property, save the pool and the guest house.