Public tours of the new Sunnylands Center & Gardens and the Sunnylands historic estate and residence will begin on March 1, 2012. The public opening follows a private dedication on February 12 and a partnership with Palm Springs Modernism Week that offered preview tours from February 17 through February 25.
Sunnylands Center & Gardens at 37977 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage CA, is open free Thursdays through Sundays, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm., beginning March 1. In June and July the hours are 7:00 am to 2:00 pm. Sunnylands will be closed in August.
Tours of the historic estate and residence are $35 and tickets can be purchased online beginning February 15, 2012. Future tour tickets will be released on the 1st and 15th of each month for the following two-week period. Tickets can be purchased only via the Sunnylands web site, No children under 10 years of age are permitted on tours of the house and estate but are welcome at Sunnylands Center & Gardens.
Sunnylands Center & Gardens serves as a visitor and education center and the starting point for tours of the historic Midcentury Modern home of Ambassadors Walter and Leonore Annenberg. The new building and gardens, started prior to Mrs. Annenberg’s death, are part of a $65 million project that responds to a trust document created by the Annenbergs. In the document, the Annenbergs outlined their wishes to open the estate to the public and to create The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands for high-level retreats at which national and world leaders would come together in efforts to advance international peace and increase global understanding.
The original Sunnylands property is a 200-acre estate with a house designed by architect A. Quincy Jones and interiors by William Haines and Ted Graber. The 25,000-square-foot Midcentury Modern home, completed in 1966, is surrounded by beautifully landscaped grounds and a private golf course designed by the legendary Dick Wilson. The Annenbergs lived at Sunnylands for approximately five months each year. Here they welcomed Presidents, royalty, international political figures, and cultural and entertainment icons. At Sunnylands, President Nixon invited Walter Annenberg to become the United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s and President Reagan called Leonore Annenberg to serve as his chief of protocol, an office that comes with the title of Ambassador. Many of the couple’s philanthropic gifts were announced at Sunnylands, following the sale of Annenberg’s Triangle Publishing Company home to Seventeen Magazine and TV Guide.
Sunnylands Center & Gardens is located on 15-acres adjacent to the historic estate. Visitors to the 11,000-square-foot Center can study Sunnylands art collection and interior design; explore the architecture of the home; review the 20th century cultural landscape; learn about the 21st-century greening of the 15-acre Center and Gardens; and enjoy films, videos, and publications detailing historic events and the role played by the Annenbergs as well as information about the couple’s philanthropic giving and their commitment to education and the arts. Visitors will be able to examine exhibits that place the estate in the context of Midcentury Modern architecture. An orientation film and interactive multimedia kiosks give additional information about Sunnylands, the Annenbergs, and their famous guests.
Guests to Sunnylands Center can relax in its great room offering a spectacular view of Mt. San Jacinto, enjoy the menu options at the café, and browse in the store. Outdoor activities include exploring the unique nine-acre gardens that use desert plants to paint a living canvas based on the Annenberg collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. Interpretive materials will explain the ways in which solar panels will supply energy for this LEED Gold project as well as the minimal amount of water used to support the Gardens.
The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands is committed to environmental sensitivity. The newly constructed Center utilizes a solar field for electrical power and a geothermal system for heating and cooling. The new desert landscape will use no more than 20 percent of the permissible water under Coachella Valley Water District regulations. At the historic estate, demand for water and power is being reduced via a state-of-the-art system, a new lake circulation system, and implementation of a composting program. The Sunnylands historic house and estate have been retrofitted while carefully considering the cultural landscape.
The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, which operates The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands is an independent 501(C)(3) nonprofit operating entity established by The Annenberg Foundation to hold high level retreats that address serious issues facing the nation and the world community and to educate the public on the historical significance of Sunnylands. More information may be found online at www.sunnylands.org