One of my favorite things to do in the area, and a must when I am touring weekend guests, is to walk along the coast at Asilomar State Beach. Unknown to many who have visited the Monterey Peninsula before, my friends are always mesmerized by its craggy coast, sandy dunes, and the views of the expansive ocean along with peeks of Pebble Beach’s Spanish Bay.
With my dog Oliver in tow, after a nice long walk along the beach trails, we head up along the boardwalk that leads to Asilomar Conference grounds, walk the grounds a bit to see the historic Julia Morgan designed buildings, and end our tour by lounging on the Adirondack chairs on the back porch of the Hearst Social Hall. Sometimes we go at lunchtime and pack a picnic lunch. But most of the time sunset is my favorite time because, not only does Asilomar have the best sunset views, but it is a great time to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the area while sipping wine from the nearby cafe. If it gets too cold, we can always go inside and lounge around the massive fireplace in the hall.
I recently had the pleasure of learning more about the both idyllic and rustic Asilomar Conference Grounds through a docent tour. This architectural gem is right in my own backyard and fits in beautifully with the style and charm of Carmel, Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove and the historic structures of old Monterey. The conference center was originally built for the YWCA. Between 1913 and 1929 architect Julia Morgan (famed architect of Hearst Castle) designed and built 16 of the buildings on the property, 11 of which are still standing. It was from Phoebe Hearst’s involvement in the grounds that Julia Morgan got involved in the project.
Julia Morgan was true to the California Arts & Crafts style when she designed Asilomar. Her idea was to design the buildings from the inside out, with the main features and style found in the interiors. Open spaces, natural light and the craftsmanship of the structures demonstrate the art of the buildings. Local wood and stone were the primary materials.
Since the project was on such a tight budget, Julia designed the buildings to be built in phases utilizing timber from trees that had to be cut down to make way for the new buildings.
Morgan repeatedly wove lines, colors and textures together to build patterns and harmony throughout each building.
A fireplace was often the centerpiece of a room, as Morgan felt that it represented the soul of the structure.
Today, the property is officially named "Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds", but known by many as just Asilomar, and is owned by California State Parks. It is used primarily as a conference center for hire but is also open to individual lodging guests and the grounds are open to the public.
There are many reasons I recommend the docent tour but the main ones are the juicy little tidbits of secret knowledge from the tour that most people wouldn’t know otherwise, such as how Asilomar came by it’s name, who were “The Stuck-Ups, and why the property was sold to the State, and how much they paid for it. You would be appalled knowing what 90 acres of California coast would cost these days!
If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend a visit to these historic grounds and the lovely beach area to soak up some nature, experience Morgan's timeless architectural style and how she utilized natural touches inside and out.