People swim in and lounge by the Julia Morgan-designed pool at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California.

photo by: Sarah Prikryl

Preservation Magazine, Spring 2022

A Julia Morgan-Designed Pool in Santa Monica, California, Shines Again

The Annenberg Community Beach House (ACBH), which sits on 5 oceanfront acres in Santa Monica, California, is a unique public destination, offering various amenities to anyone who wants to experience what Venue Manager Nan Friedman describes as a “quintessential California beach day.”

Visitors may also get a sense of the life actress Marion Davies must have enjoyed when she resided in the property’s 100-plus-room mansion, envisioned by William Randolph Hearst. Architect Julia Morgan completed an existing plan for the structure in the 1920s and designed its guest house and pool herself.

The main building was demolished in 1956, but one of the most striking holdovers is Morgan’s marble pool. Friedman says the pool has been an active part of the beach house’s public mission since the site opened in 2009, 15 years after the Northridge Earthquake caused severe damage to all structures on the property.

Naturally, 10 years of heavy use led to wear and tear, including cracked tiles and fading paint. So ACBH launched a rehabilitation project in 2019, enlisting architecture firm Page & Turnbull to make Morgan’s gem vibrant again.

The process included cleaning and replacing damaged green and white marble deck tiles, gutter fascia, and mosaic tiles on the pool floor, as well as repairing the hand-painted decorative fish motifs outlining the bottom of the pool.

Work continued during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pool remained closed upon completion in June of 2020. It opened with a revised schedule in July of 2021 and is now set for its first full season since the beginning of the pandemic.

Tim O'Donnell is a former assistant editor at Preservation magazine. He spends most of his time reading about modern European history and hoping the Baltimore Orioles will turn their fortunes around. A Maryland native, he now lives in Brooklyn.

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