Walter and Leonore Annenberg moved into Sunnylands, their soon-to-be-famous estate back in 1966, five years before Rancho Mirage was even incorporated as a city.
But 10 years earlier — very close to where Sunnylands would be built — the well-known comedian Harpo Marx had already commissioned the equally famous architect Wallace Neff to build a home for his family.
Water from the spa flows over a rock-formation spillway into the resort-size swimming pool.
The house is currently on the market for $6 million and realtor Joshua Smith of Leaskou Partners says he likens the collaboration of Marx and Neff to when two icons met.
Bill Marx is one of four children who Harpo and his wife, Susan, adopted. On his website harposplace.com, he notes that, “In 1956 the family moved down to Rancho Mirage, California, where Dad had helped found the Tamarisk Country Club. Despite some health issues, Dad's happy remaining years were spent strumming away at his beloved harp, making increasingly rarer professional appearances, painting with Mom and golfing buck naked in the hot desert sun (whenever the neighbors weren't looking).”
Just off the living room is a sunken wet bar and the dining area.
Marx died in September 1964 following open-heart surgery. His Rancho Mirage estate passed through several hands over the years before being purchased as a bank foreclosure in 2011 by its current owner, Jay Anthony.
“I’d been in and out of the desert for many years and I liked the park-like setting,” says Anthony. “[The house had been] almost abandoned for four years. To my eye, it seemed like most people who were looking at it wanted to strip it or rebuild, but that was prevented because of its historic designation.”
The updated kitchen has granite countertops and a wine room.
In 2007, the house was added to the Rancho Mirage Register of Historic Resources. “That means the home is now being grandfathered into something called the Mills Act,” says Smith. “So whatever [amount] someone buys the house for, they will only pay taxes on half of the sale price.”
The home has eight bedrooms and 10 bathrooms spread over 9,071 square feet. The property is beautifully landscaped and will immediately charm would-be buyers as they cross an arched bridge, that spans a small lagoon with waterfalls, to reach the front door.
Once inside, they’ll be taken in by an open floor plan, 27-foot vaulted and beamed ceilings, as well as dramatic mountain views and a huge backyard with a pool, spa, tennis court, and three-hole putting green.
71111 La Paz Road, Rancho Mirage; Joshua Smith, Realtor, Leaskou Partners; office: 760-646-8886; cell: 760-799-6094
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