When President Obama meets with China‘s Community Party Leader Xi Jinping on Friday, he’ll forego the traditional confines of the White House for a private estate called Sunnylands, near Palm Springs, California.
“It will be interesting to see how the chemistry will develop,” Cheng Li, a Chinese politics expert at the Brookings Institution, told the Associated Press. “It’s important, because particularly in China, personal relationships always carry a lot of weight in state-to-state relations.”
They’ll have much to discuss: everything from cyberattacks and espionage to North Korea‘s nuclear program to China’s burgeoning trade relations with Mexico. It’s fitting, then, that this estate is no stranger to diplomatic talks.
TV Guide publishing magnate Walter Annenberg and his wife Leonore initially commissioned L.A. architect A. Quincy Jones to design the Rancho Mirage abode as a winter home in 1966. Because the late couple were part of Palm Springs’ celebrity society—Leonore Annenberg was the niece of Columbia Pictures chief Harry Coh, who raised her—it quickly became a haven for the who’s-who of Hollywood, hosting icons like Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable, and Fred Astaire. The couple also hosted Presidents, including President Ronald Reagan, who celebrated New Year’s Eve 18 times at the Annenberg House, and President Richard M. Nixon, who retreated to Sunnylands after his resignation. “When you’re down,” Nixon wrote in the house’s guestbook, “you find out who your real friends are.”
In 2012, under the terms of a $300 million trust created by the Annenbergs, the private estate—in an attempt to become the so-called Camp David of the West coast—opened as a retreat location for high-level national and world leaders. Since then, it’s hosted Condoleezza Rice for talks on U.S.-Mexico relations and Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe for discussions on math education and technology.
While stays at the 22-room, 25,000-square-foot Annenberg House are off-limits to us average folks, limited tickets for tours of the estate are available when no diplomatic retreats are taking place. Below, an abridged virtual version.