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Starlet's Beachfront Estate Now Open as Community Beach House
Artist's rendering of the Annenberg Beach House (Image via City of Santa Monica)
Once upon a time it was the beachfront estate of silent movie starlet Marion Davies, built for her by her lover, the infamous newspaperman William Randolph Hearst. It was definitely a "party house" where a who's who of Hollywood's golden era would frolic in the pool and on the shore. On the 5-acre site was a mansion designed by renowned architect Julia Morgan, boasting 110 rooms. In 1945, the estate was sold and run as a hotel. "After that venture failed, the mansion was demolished and the property sold to the State of California in 1959. For the next 30 years, the site was a popular private beach facility called the Sand & Sea Club," according to the Annenberg Foundation. You may have even seen it play the Beverly Hills Beach Club on the original 90210. After the '94 Northridge Earthquake, though, it was shut down after being heavily damaged.
Wallis Annenberg remembered going to the Sand & Sea Club, which is what prompted her in 2004 to become involved in the City of Santa Monica's Reuse project for the property, which launched in 1999. This weekend, the Annenberg Community Beach House is open to the public, offering membership-free club-like access to the beach and the facilities.
"We don't want to call it a club. It's a community beach house," said Leonard Aube, managing director of the Annenberg Foundation, which provided $27.5 million of the nearly $35 million cost to build and finish the attraction. "We want to create a place that's unconditionally welcoming for everyone."
Everyone can enjoy the Beach House's volleyball and tennis courts, a cafe, meeting spaces, locker rooms, and use of the same marble-tiled pool in which Davies and her Hollywood friends swam--albeit a restored version heated using solar power. The guest houses on the property are the only other original structures besides the swimming pool, and were restored as part of the project. The Beach House is operated by the City of Santa Monica, and starting today, the Beach House is open to the public. The pool will be open on weekends beginning in May. Fees for pool use and parking range from $3-$10. [View a full set of photos here]
Annenberg Community Beach House
415 Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica
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