Tour of the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands
Annenberg Retreat, Sunnylands,
Located behind a pink wall is a 200-acre estate known as The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands. Ambassador Walter Annenberg and Lenore Annenberg created their majestic western home on grounds that were once barren desert land. With the commissioning of Southern California Architect A. Quincy Jones, development began in earnest in 1963 to create this 23,000 square foot home.
When you go on the tour, you travel to the house by riding a seven-person golf cart from the Education Center. Tours are kept small so it is easy to ask questions of your guide and for security reasons.
All the Impressionist and Post Impressionists paintings displayed are outstanding reproductions. The original 52 paintings are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even though they are reproductions, it is amazing to think that many of the original paintings owned by the Annenberg's once hung in this home and now can be found in art history books.
Lovers of glass will be enthralled by the Steuben Asian Artist Crystal Collection. Once he left the Ambassadorship, Mr. Annenberg asked Steuben to recreate these vessels for his own collection. The originals ones had been given as gifts to dignitaries throughout the world. Throughout the house are priceless pieces of original art that may suddenly show up as you turn the corner or enter one of the rooms.
Let’s just say if you are an art lover, this is a must see.
Structure of the Home
The Annenberg's were intimately involved with all aspects of the construction. Working with Jones, they walked the land and carefully positioned the house. It was built with many floor-to-ceiling glass walls in order to make it feel like the outdoors is part of the inside space. Mt. San Jacinto can be seen from many areas of the house and patios.
When you approach the home, the first glimpse of the Maya column (A replica that also serves as a water feature) in the middle of the circle driveway makes one feel like you are in for a very special adventure. A plaque naming this building as a National Historic site in 1990 is right outside the front door.
When the doors open, I challenge you not be in total awe. There is no way to put into words what you are seeing and experiencing. What causes the sense of amazement? Is it the more than life-size Auguste Rodin sculpture of Eve standing among 300 pink bromeliad plants? Is it the walls of art? Is it the exquisite furniture designed by William Haines and Ted Gaber? Is it the floor-to-ceiling glass walls? Is it the central skylight that casts light on every corner of the immense space? Let’s just say your senses will be overwhelmed.
The tour takes you through out the entire house. Furnishings are exactly as they were created. You tour the kitchen, bedrooms and my favorite, the “Memory Room.” I am not exaggerating; hundreds of framed pictures fill this entire room. The Annenberg's liked displaying photos taken throughout their lives. Photos with signatures include those of Presidents, dignitaries, and Hollywood stars. There is even a wall devoted to Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas Cards that the Annenberg's happily received every year even after he was no longer Ambassador.
Ambassador and Mrs. Annenberg are now interred in a mausoleum on the property-50 acres of the property designated as a cemetery.
A Place to Change the World
Today, the Annenberg Estate is referred to as the West Coast Camp David. As per the Annenberg's request, the estate now serves as place where world leaders come to discuss science, industry, education, art and culture. Retreats have been here to discuss Home Security, U.S/Mexico Relations, Transforming k-12 Math and HIV/AIDS Cure to name a few.
THE ANNEBERG RETREAT AT SUNNYLANDS
37977 Bob Hope Drive
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
Things you should know:
No pictures allowed inside.
Standing is required for the 1.5 hr. tour
Tours are available only Thursday – Sunday. First tour starts at 9:15 a.m. and the last one of the day starts at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets cost $40 and are only available online. Tickets are in great demand so buy your tickets well in advance of your visit.