Before Sunnylands, There Was Sunny-Lands

Sunnylands, Rancho Mirage, CA

Walter and Leonore Annenberg’s Rancho Mirage estate Sunnylands, favorite repose of the Reagans, Queen Elizabeth II, Richard Nixon (who fled here in disgrace directly from Washington), and Truman Capote (!), will open on March 1 as a “west coast Camp David,” the Times Adam Nagourney reported yesterday.

The 25,000 square foot jewel of mid-century modern architecture sits on a 200 acre estate with hundreds of olive trees and 11 man-made lakes.

Just a few years gone (Walter died in 2002, Leonore in 2009), it’s almost possible to forget that Walter’s father Moses (Moe or M.L.), the Hearst-trained publisher of the Daily Racing Form, seeded a media empire here by purchasing the Inquirer in 1936. M.L. turned the moribund paper around by eschewing (at least temporarily) the paper’s long-standing conservatism in favor of hard-hitting journalism and the New Deal. “A newspaper isn’t living up to its real power in a community unless it does something,” he told his editors. “A paper that isn’t willing to stand up and fight for rights and happiness and health, the general welfare, of the community which supports it, isn’t worth printing, and it certainly isn’t worth owning. I want the Inquirer to the be the eyes and the voice, and if need be, the good hard fists of the citizens of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.”

As he rebuilt the paper, M.L.–who would soon enough go to prison for tax evasion–often had his editors over to his suite at the Warwick, on 17th Street, where he kept his mistress Gertrude Boze (and gave her a quite ample salary of $150 week). Those editors were also treated to weekends at the original Sunnylands, on 5,000 acres near Milford, Pa., in the Poconos. Part of the estate was Big Log Tavern Lake, site of the drowning of Thomas Mitten, chairman of the Philadelphia rapid transit company and the estate’s previous owner.


View Larger Map

About the author

Nathaniel Popkin is co-founder of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (with Peter Woodall and Joseph E.B. Elliott) and two novels, Everything is Borrowed and Lion and Leopard. He is co-editor of Who Will Speak for America, an anthology forthcoming in June 2018, and the senior writer of the film documentary "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment."



Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Developer Targets Asian Shopping Center In Next Battle For Washington Avenue

Developer Targets Asian Shopping Center In Next Battle For Washington Avenue

June 26, 2019  |  News

Hoa Binh Plaza at 16th Street and Washington Avenue has been a shopping and community hub for Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrants for nearly 30 years. As real estate acquisition heats up west of Broad Street, a developer plans to raze the complex for new residential construction. Kimberly Haas has the news > more

Celebrating Rebellion: On The Picket Line With The Suffragettes Of Philadelphia

Celebrating Rebellion: On The Picket Line With The Suffragettes Of Philadelphia

June 24, 2019  |  Vantage

This month marks the 100th anniversary of Pennsylvania ratifying the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. With Independence Day fast approaching, Amy Cohen introduces us to the rebellious suffragettes that fought for equal rights in Philadelphia > more

Residents Sound Off To Land Bank Following Release Of New Report

Residents Sound Off To Land Bank Following Release Of New Report

June 21, 2019  |  News

The Philadelphia Land Bank draws anger and frustration with the release of its new strategic plan and performance report. Kimberly Haas has the details > more

Growing Pains Yield Gains For The Mütter Museum

Growing Pains Yield Gains For The Mütter Museum

June 20, 2019  |  News

The Mütter Museum, one to the country's premiere medical history museums, prepares for a major expansion with a $25 million capital campaign and designs by KieranTimberlake. Kimberly Haas has the news > more

Italian-American Heritage & Industrial Landmarks Go Under Review For Historic Designation Recommendation

Italian-American Heritage & Industrial Landmarks Go Under Review For Historic Designation Recommendation

June 17, 2019  |  News

Starr Herr-Cardillo has this roundup of local register nominations on the agenda at the June meeting of the Philadelphia Historical Commission's Designation Committee > more

Homeowners Pay The Price When New Construction Damages Neighboring Rows

Homeowners Pay The Price When New Construction Damages Neighboring Rows

June 14, 2019  |  News

Owners of row houses are left with little recourse when demolition and new construction causes structural damage to their homes. Starr Herr-Cardillo takes a look at a growing citywide problem > more