Annenberg’s West Coast estate opened for public

Sunnylands, the baronial Rancho Mirage home of the late Walter and Lenore Annenberg, two of Philadelphia’s great 20th century philanthropists, will open to the public for the first time March 1.

The first session of public viewings at the West Coast estate of Walter Annenberg, who was head of a vast media empire that included the Philadelphia Inquirer and TV Guide, is already sold out. Tickets for the second session that begins later next month go on sale March 1.

Besides public tours, the Annenberg trust is modeling itself after Camp David, the presidential retreat that has been the scene of many peace talks.

Elizabeth Kabler, the granddaughter of the Annenbergs and the youngest trustee of Sunnylands, explained, “We are hoping that the beauty, tranquility, and peacefulness of the estate will facilitate dialogue and diplomacy between world leaders, particularly from the Pacific Rim because of our proximity.”

The U.S. Supreme Court already holds an annual retreat here. Since the Mexican and American presidential elections coincide this year, we are holding a summit with high level attendees from both countries.

Although Nixon appointed her grandfather as ambassador to England, she stressed the bipartisan nature of the retreat.

“Invitees to the opening festivities ranged from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, former Secretary of Defense George Schultz, Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa, singer John Legend and the head of the United Negro College Fund Michael Lomax,” said Kabler, who fondly recalled being inspired to dance at the age of 8 by the beauty of the Van Gogh paintings and Rodin statutes in the house.

Kabler, an art consultant, said her grandparents, who have endowed most of the city’s leading cultural institutions, established the center because “they loved America.”

Prominent guests

The Annenbergs, particularly during Walter Annenberg’s time as U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, hosted many dignitaries and luminaries. Among the long list of visitors and parties:

Seven American presidents and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

The British royal family and Prince Grace (Kelly) of Monaco

Frank Sinatra’s fourth wedding

President George H. Bush’s state dinner for the Japanese Prime Minister Kaifu

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