Home of the ‘American Riviera’ celebrates 75th birthday

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Costume contest winners gather in the courtyard of the Adamson House. All were dressed in 1930s attire. Heather O'Quinn / TMT

The Adamson House was designed by famed architect Stiles O. Clements and built for Rhoda Rindge Adamson (daughter of Frederick H. Rindge) and her husband Merritt Huntley Adamson.

By Ryan O’Quinn/ Special to The Malibu Times

The Adamson House is arguably located in one of the most beautiful locations on the West Coast, dubbed the “American Riviera” by Union Oil and Southern California Edison founder Frederick H. Rindge, who purchased the land in 1892. Located adjacent to Surfrider Beach, the Adamson House has incredible views of the beach, Malibu Lagoon and Pier, and the east end of the Malibu Colony. The 75th anniversary of the unique main house, which was completed in 1930, was celebrated on Sunday with a number of people in attendance including Adamson-Rindge family members and returning docents.

“This house is one of the treasures of the [state Assembly] district,” said Louise Rishoff, district director for Assemblymember Fran Pavley, as she presented a plaque of recognition from the California Legislature. “Seventy-five years later it is as alive as ever and we hope it has another 75 years.”

The property, which is now owned by the state and maintained by California State Parks and the Malibu Lagoon Museum, was designed by famed architect Stiles O. Clements and built for Rhoda Rindge Adamson (daughter of Frederick Rindge) and her husband Merritt Huntley Adamson.

Following a series of legal wrangling and a 14-year struggle to keep the house from being torn down to make room for a parking lot for Surfrider Beach, the property and all the contents are now held in partnership by the State Parks Department and the Malibu Lagoon State Beach Park Interpretive Association.

“I have many fond memories of this house,” said family member Rhoda May Dallas, who grew up in the Adamson House. “I remember lots of great Christmases and family gatherings here and we had lots of fun during the summer months.”

Dallas said some of the notable changes in Malibu since her childhood are the traffic on Pacific Coast Highway and the number of surfers in front of the house. She said there were a few people in the water at Surfrider Beach in the 1930s and ’40s, but not like today.

Last year, the preservation of the home was officially complete when Dallas and another sister, as well as other individuals and groups, donated personal possessions and the state of California purchased the home’s original contents to keep the property intact. Among the house’s many artifacts are ceramic art and ornate tiles such as a tiled hallway painted as a Persian-style rug with fringed ends.

“The turnout is really great today,” said Kathleen Franklin, Santa Monica Mountains superintendent for California State Parks. “I was especially touched by the members of the Adamson family who are here and the volunteers and docents who no longer work here but came back. This place is incredible. Every time I look around these grounds I think this place is great.”

Also in attendance was Grant Adamson, the grandson of the original homebuilders.

“This is my favorite house in Malibu,” Adamson said. “This is where my wife and I married 21 years ago and we have many fond memories of Adamson House. We’ve had family holidays here and we used to shoot fireworks from this lawn. The architecture and construction quality make it my favorite place; and, of course, there’s the sentimental value as well.”

The brightly colored tiles anchor the theme of the property, which retains the Moorish-Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. Malibu Potteries, which was established by May Knight Rindge, wife of Frederick H. Rindge, produced an abundance of brilliantly colored tiles from 1926-1932 that were shipped around the world. Many of the homes and buildings that were built in Southern California in the 1920s and 1930s still retain pieces of tile from Malibu Potteries.

In addition to the Adamson House main quarters is an outdoor saltwater pool with adjoining bathhouse. There is also a separate one-room structure that was originally designed as a study room and hobby shop.

Vibrant Malibu tiles are found all over the grounds, especially in the detailed star-shaped fountain close to the beach and the Neptune fountain adjacent to the house. Ornate tiled pathways wind throughout the property and the gardens, as well as to the lagoon, boathouse and the beach.

Other outdoor amenities include a rose garden, a croquet lawn and a picnic area under a giant sycamore tree.

Sunday’s visitors gathered on the lawn and were treated to birthday cake catered by Monrose Catering, a barbershop quartet and a costume contest of those dressed in 1930s attire.

The Adamson House and Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is located at 23200 Pacific Coast Highway and more information is available by calling 310.456.8432 or visiting www.adamsonhouse.org.