While in Palm Springs last week, I was able to visit the Camp David of the West Coast, Sunnylands. I was poured with emotions while entering this property as it has been the center stage of many historical retreats and the playground for several U.S. Presidents, politicians and dignitaries. And did I mention that Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh also stayed here in 1983? Hello?! Of course, I dressed up for the occasion and marveled that these 200 acres in the outskirts of Palm Springs attracted so much power and influence.
Sunnylands was the home of the fabulously wealthy entrepreneurs, ambassadors and philanthropists Walter and Lee Annenberg. They purchased the desert land in 1963 and hired prominent LA architect A. Quincy Jones to design the 25,000 square foot home. The mid-century modern residence hosts an incredible art collection and with its large windows, has breathtaking views of the nearby San Jacinto mountains and the surrounding landscape which features 11 lakes and a nine-hole golf course. Tickets must be purchased in advance as there is a limited number, however, you are free to stroll the brand new visitor center and garden with no reservation. I just did that, as tickets were sold out and loved the grounds with the beautiful geometrical designs created with a variety of succulents and desert plants.
I wonder if the Annenbergs foresaw that their winter home, the desert getaway, would have played such an important role in impromptu presidential meetings. Richard Nixon wrote his 1974 State of the Union here, and George H.W. Bush hosted a State dinner for Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu in 1990 for starters. Ronald Reagan came to the Annenbergs NYE party every year for 18 years while Eisenhower would come here to golf and fish. Sunnylands is still hosting retreats for domestic and global leaders to address significant challenges and to advance world peace and the common good. How’s that for a place in the middle of nowhere?