Sunnylands visitor center, 2012.
|Location||37977 Bob Hope Drive
Rancho Mirage, California
|Design and construction|
|Architect||A. Quincy Jones|
Sunnylands, the former Annenberg Estate, located in Rancho Mirage, California, is a 200-acre (0.81 km2) estate currently run by The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, a not-for-profit organization and Annenberg family trust. The property was owned by Walter and Leonore Annenberg until 2009 and had been used as a winter retreat by the couple from 1966, when the house was completed. The property is "rich with historical significance," according to the city of Rancho Mirage, which declared Sunnylands an historic site in 1990. Located at Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope Drives, the property has been the vacation site of numerous celebrities and public officials.
Construction on the Sunnylands estate began in 1963. Renowned interior designer William Haines and assistant Ted Graber were the interior designers on the project. University of Southern California professor A. Quincy Jones. designed the 25,000-square-foot midcentury modern house known for its pink roof. At one time, the house was the largest in Riverside County. The property includes the main house, guest quarters, three guest cottages, a private 9-hole golf course, and 11 man-made lakes. When the Annenbergs were in residence, the main house hosted a significant art collection acquired by the couple, with about 50 works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Andrew Wyeth, and Monet. A large portion of their collection was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art following Walter Annenberg's death in 2002. The house is hidden from public view; a pink-brick wall surrounds the estate, as do hundreds of eucalyptus and olive trees and a thick belt of Tamarisk trees.
Sunnylands has been the vacation site of a wide range of political leaders and celebrities. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, joined the Annenbergs to golf and fish. President Richard Nixon wrote his 1974 State of the Union Address at the house and, after leaving office, was a guest at Sunnylands when President Gerald Ford pardoned him for any wrongdoing in the Watergate scandal. Ford and his wife Betty were frequent guests as well. President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan were close friends of the Annenbergs and visited every New Year's for 18 years. President George H. W. Bush hosted a state dinner at the house for Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu in 1990.
Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have stayed at the house as well. Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran in the late 1970s, the family of the Shah of Iran was invited to seek refuge at Sunnylands. Queen Elizabeth II visited for lunch, and Prince Charles made occasional weekend visits. President Barack Obama used the site to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. The property required such privacy for world leaders that it earned restricted air space status. Other notable people who have visited the property include Frank Sinatra (who was married there), Bob Hope, Fred Astaire, Gregory Peck, Ginger Rogers, Bing Crosby, Mary Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr.
Opening to the public
Prior to her death in 2009, Mrs. Annenberg identified 15 acres (0.061 km2) adjacent to Sunnylands as the location for a visitor center. Frederick Fisher & Partners designed the 17,000-square-foot (1,600 m2) building and The Office of James Burnett designed the surrounding gardens. The building, open to the public on a regular basis, offers educational and historic information about the Annenbergs, Sunnylands, and the various Sunnylands collections. After Ambassador Walter Annenberg's death in 2002 and Mrs. Annenberg's death in March 2009, ownership was transferred to The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands. Both Ambassador and Mrs. Annenberg are interred on the property. Most of the art collection was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York upon Mr. Annenberg’s death. Digital reproductions now hang in their place.
Limited, guided public tours of the sprawling facilities began on March 1, 2012.
The Annenbergs envisioned Sunnylands becoming a place for national and foreign dignitaries and diplomats to gather for summit meetings and retreats, available to leaders from all political parties.
- Fessier, Bruce (13 March 2009). "Sunnylands Estate will open for public tours" (fee required). The Desert Sun. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
- Moore, Steve (April 26, 2008). "Estate to feature Annenberg Education Center at Sunnylands". The Press Enterprise. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
- "About Sunnylands". The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
- Adam Nagourney (January 23, 2012), A Retreat for the Rich and Powerful Is Opening Its Doors to the World New York Times.
- "Leonore Annenberg: philanthropist". The Times. March 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
- Valerie J. Nelson (March 13, 2009), Leonore Annenberg dies at 91; philanthropist, widow of publishing magnate Los Angeles Times.
- Sanger, David E. (June 9, 2013). "Obama and Xi Try to Avoid a Cold War Mentality". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-06-09.