The Annenberg Community Beach House
At the direction of Wallis Annenberg, the Annenberg Foundation provided major funding for the restoration and repurposing of a five-acre beachfront property at 415 Pacific Coast Highway, in Santa Monica, California. The Annenberg Community Beach House opened on April 25, 2009, and provides public access to a beautiful, multifaceted facility offering swimming (both pool and ocean), volleyball and beach tennis courts, children's play areas, event and meeting spaces, classes and other recreational opportunities.
Originally developed in the 1930s by William Randolph Hearst for actress Marion Davies, the property was the site of an elegant 110-room mansion designed by architect Julia Morgan. The estate hosted a wide range of stars, including Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Cary Grant and Gloria Swanson.
The estate was sold in 1945 and the property was 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, a place Wallis Annenberg remembers visiting in her youth.
When the operating lease for the Sand & Sea Club expired, the City of Santa Monica opened the facility for seasonal public use until the structures on the property were irreparably damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The city then began an extensive public-input process to make the site an important public gathering place; a reuse plan was adopted by the Santa Monica City Council in 1999.
In 2004, Wallis Annenberg learned about the project and its broad-based potential community benefit. Her interest and generosity, in the form of a $27.5 million grant, paved the way for the site's rehabilitation and reuse. The project is a partnership with California State Parks and the City of Santa Monica.
The project includes restoration of the historic pool and guest house (the only structures that remain from the original house) and construction of new structures including an entry pavilion, pool house, event building and public restroom building. The facilities were thoughtfully rehabilitated and designed by Frederick Fisher and Partners, Architects.