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Presidents see pink at desert California retreat

Annenberg Foundation via EPA

A photograph made available by the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands shows the Grand Hall of the new Center at Sunnylands, Rancho Mirage, Calif.

On Friday and Saturday, as President Barack Obama hunkers down for a visit with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss cybercrime, North Korea and more, he'll do so in a place with a decidedly non-White House vibe: the aptly named Sunnylands resort in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Sunnylands, a striking piece of modern architecture featuring a 20,000-foot main house and three cottages, has hosted celebrities and politicians — occasionally at the same time. Formerly known as the Annenberg Estate (the late billionaire and philanthropist Walter Annenberg and his wife, Leonore, completed construction on it in 1966), it recently underwent a $60.5 million renovation and, as of March 2012, became open to the public for tours.

Here are eight things you may not know about Sunnylands:

  • Seven presidents have stayed at the historic estate, including Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
  • Celebrity guests were regulars at the Annenberg Estate. Some of the big names include Queen Elizabeth II, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Clark Gable and Sammy Davis Jr. 
  • Frank Sinatra married his fourth — and final — wife, Barbara, there in 1976.
  • The famous pink roof on the Sunnylands main house was Leonore Annenberg’s choice because she wanted to "match the sunset glow on nearby foothills," according to Sunnylands' website. (Pink may have been be the family color: The Annenbergs' remains are now in a pink burial chamber.)
  • Dick Wilson designed a nine-hole golf course as part of the resort in 1964 (parts were open for play even before the resort opened). Eisenhower — an avid golfer — was the first president to tee off there.
  • Sunnylands is sometimes described as an escape from the real world — and Nixon used it as his hideaway after his resignation in 1974.
  • After the Annenbergs died, most of the famous artwork on the walls of the resort — including works by Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh — were donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Prints of those pieces now hang on the walls.
  • Adjacent to the estate, Leonore Annenberg commissioned a 17,000-square-foot building to be used for meetings and retreats that was completed in 2011. The interior decorator, Michael Smith, also designed the Obama family's living area in the White House.