Archive for May 5th, 2009

Marion Davies “Ocean House” Opens as Annenberg Community Beach House – Santa Monica, California

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Photo above: Marion Davies’ “Ocean House” Santa Monica. The main house as it looked while being operated for a brief period as a hotel.

On April 26, 2009, the $29 million Annenberg Community Beach House opens, at the recommendation of Wallis Annenberg and in partnership with the City of Santa Monica and California State Parks, at 415 Pacific Coast Highway.
It will be open every day including Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to sunset.

In 1928 Will Rogers sold a parcel of land on the beach with two large houses on it to William Randolph Hearst, who then gave it to his paramour actress, Marion Davies. He commissioned Julia Morgan, the architect of the Hearst Castle, to design and build a three-story, 118-room, 34-bedroom, 55-bath Georgian mansion on the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica. It was accompanied by three guesthouses, two swimming pools, tennis courts and dog kennels and was called “Ocean House” and cost over $7 million, a staggering amount at the time.
Marion Davies retired from the film business in 1937 and, in 1947, she sold the property to the state of California who leased it to the City of Santa Monica, which, leased it to a hotel, Ocean House, whose owner, Joseph Drown, after operating it for a period of time, incomprehensibly, 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.
As a child, I was fortunate enough to have dined in the Ocean House Hotel in the main house before it was demolished, on several occasions, and subsequently, my grandparents joined the Sand & Sea Club and I remember spending summer day’s splashing around in the long, marble pool.
Most of the property was torn down in 1958. By the time the City of Santa Monica and the Annenburg Foundation and Wallis Annenberg, who spearheaded the idea and supplied a great deal of the financial aid through the foundation started the resurrection, only one of Davies’ guest houses and the 110 foot swimming pool remained.  That building has been, to put it more gracefully, “retired” and supplemented by new buildings.
In the late 1980s, restaurateur Michael McCarty (Michael’s) proposed replacing the Sand and Sea Club with a new “luxury hotel.”  The City loved the idea but residents did not, and put a measure on the ballot that would ban any new hotels on the beach. The residents won the battle over City Hall and McCarty.