Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Things to Do: Annenberg Community Beach House, Santa Monica, California


Annenberg Community Beach House  415 Pacific Coast Highway, (310) 458-4904.  Parking $3/hr., $8-$12/day.  No pets.  No alcohol or glass bottles.  Located north of the Santa Monica Pier and south of Will Rogers State Beach, this spectacular community center replaced the mansion where actress Marion Davies once held lavish parties attended by stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, and Clark Gable.  Built as a summer place for Davies in the 1920s by William Randolph Hearst, and designed by architect Julia Morgan, the original 100-room mansion in this compound was used for parties and good times every summer until World War II, when blackouts began.  They closed the house in 1942 and never came back.  Everything was auctioned off.  Though the mansion is gone, the guest house remains for day use and tours.  Originally situated ocean front, the shoreline has moved out, and now the deep, sandy Santa Monica State Beach stretches out in front.


exterior of Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
exterior of Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
Marion Davies Guest House  Docent tours F-M at 11am, 12pm, & 1pm.  Free. 
Historic photos of Marion and her glamorous guests line the walls, but unfortunately the interior has been painted white and features nondescript furniture and wall-to-wall carpeting.  No furniture remains from the heyday, but fortunately two bathrooms do remain with original tiles and decor.  Docents have many stories to tell on the 30-minute tour.  Among the tantalizing tidbits I learned:
     ●The Alfred Hitchcock-directed movie “Shadow of a Doubt” with Joseph Cotton was filmed in the guest house in 1943 and shows the original woodwork, wallpaper, and furniture. 
     ●Orson Wells wrote “Citizen Kane” while staying in the guest house.  The character Susan Alexander was modeled after Davies.
          If you want to learn more, an hour-long background video plays continuously upstairs.  You can also visit the guest house on your own without a tour and use tables in the rooms for card games and more.
historic photos of Marion Davies at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
historic photos of Marion Davies at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
 


fireplace designed by Julia Morgan at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
fireplace designed by Julia Morgan at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

grand staircase at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
grand staircase at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

original tiled bathroom at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
original tiled bathroom at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

beach view from porch at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
beach view from porch at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

Pool (open summer only)  $10, 60+ $5, 1-17 $4, family of 4 (2 youth & 2 adults) $24; half-price on M.  This is the property’s original pool.  Look closely and you’ll see some Julia Morgan-designed tiles.  Pool day passes go on sale at 9am and can sell out quickly.
pool at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
pool at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

A splash pad for kids is adjacent.
splash pad at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
splash pad at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

●kid's playground
kid's playground at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
kid's playground at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

Gallery  Small art exhibits are regularly scheduled.
art gallery at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
art gallery at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

paved walkway to beach  This paved path saves you the effort of plodding through the hot sand to the shoreline.
beach at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
beach at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

Snowy Plover dune restoration area  Located a short walk to the north along the Santa Monica beach path (also known as The Strand), this fenced-off portion of beach protects the habitat of the endangered Snowy Plover.  The birds are seen mostly in winter.
Santa Monica beach path at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
Santa Monica beach path at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

Snowy Plover dune restoration area at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
Snowy Plover dune restoration area at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California


Back on the Beach Cafe  445 Pacific Coast Hwy., (310) 393-8282.  B-L daily; $$+.  Reservations for 6+, indoor tables only.  Situated adjacent to the community center, this beach cafe offers fantastic outdoor seating right on the sand.  It is the epitome of casual, with most diners in beach covers and flip flops.  If you can pull them away from their electronic devices, kids can build sand castles while you chill with some iced tea or wine.  It doesn’t get better than this--sitting under a sheltering umbrella on a sandy patio open to the sea breeze and with a view of the ocean in the distance.  Indeed, I wish I were back on the beach right now.  The menu features more choices than you would expect.  Breakfast items and sandwiches are prime, but many people opt for the famous “Fred’s Salad” with grilled potatoes, bleu cheese, and chicken.  My choice of the house burger and my partner’s choice of blueberry pancakes turned out to be perfect.  Political Correctness is big in Santa Monica, and so you get paper straws with your drinks.  But paper straws fell out of use long ago for a reason--they break down from sucking and have an unpleasant taste and texture--they are inferior to plastic straws.  I do hope we can come up with a better way to recycle plastic straws and save those poor turtles
Back on the Beach Cafe at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
Back on the Beach Cafe at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California


family at Back on the Beach Cafe at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
family at Back on the Beach Cafe at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California


burger at Back on the Beach Cafe at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
burger at Back on the Beach Cafe at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California


blueberry pancakes at Back on the Beach Cafe at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
blueberry pancakes at Back on the Beach Cafe at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
Back on the Beach Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


More things to do in Santa Monica

More Julia Morgan places. 

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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

6 comments:

  1. It's really amazing to think of the lavish lifestyle of the rich and famous of any age. Although I've been to Hearst Castle and knew about the relationship between Marion Davies and W. R. Hearst and their extravagant lifestyle there, I never knew about this mansion or guest house. Annenberg sounds like fun and a great burger is always a great way to add to a fun experience.

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  2. What a funny contrast between the casual beach and the remains of an elegant estate!

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  3. It's been a long time since my last visit to Santa Monica! I will bookmark your post with hope to visit the Annenberg Community Beach House in the near future.

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  4. Quite the place but I love how you can get a pool day pass! Interesting place to spend some time when in Santa Monica.

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  5. I love that fireplace designed by Julia Morgan! The Annenberg Community Beach House looks like a place I'd love to visit. Good to know about getting there early to score a day pass at the pool.

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  6. I don't think I've ever stopped in Santa Monica! It's great that what used to be a playground for the rich is open to everyone now.

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