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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Mid-Century Modern Landmark Has Been a Part of Malibu History for 60-Plus Years

BY BEVERLY GOSNELL

Buildings have lives just as do we humans. This is the known story of a once admirable structure nestled against the Casa Malibu Motel. (It could possibly boast of being visited by Zsa Zsa Gabor when she was registered at the motel years ago). It sits on a small lot overlooking the Malibu Pier on the ocean side of the state highway, which runs through the middle of Malibu.
Its only constant name is its street numbers, originally 22762 Malibu Road, then Roosevelt Highway, which opened through Malibu in 1929, and later, Pacific Coast Highway.
In a 1950 guide published by the Malibu Business Men’s Association is a pristine photo of the building with its clean modern lines, which seem to reach for the sea.
Two years later, a guide published by the newly incorporated Malibu Chamber of Commerce tells that a 1948 owner, Clay McConnell, who later became president of the Chamber, began offering for sale there “everything to delight the seaman, from an eight-foot kit to a 63-foot Chris Craft cruising yacht.” He would also arrange yacht charters.
A 1947 souvenir program from “Malibu’s first annual Remuda” supplied by Louis Busch, boasted a full page ad declaring that a marina and sports club at what is now the site of Malibu Lagoon State Park was in the permit process.
Although the showroom continued to be known as the Chris Craft Building, McConnell soon stocked household electrical appliances, such as TVs, radios, refrigerators, and washing machines and dryers. Later he scaled down the business at 22762 to only “TV Sales and Service.”
The property itself has fine credentials. According to records, owners were: May Rindge; Marblehead Land Co.; Mary McConnell; John Farrell and Maureen O’Sullivan; and Ruth Greenberg.
In 1969, sisters-in-law Jan and Ruth Greenberg took over the lease of John Schullps, who created and sold his pottery there in the space he named “The Sun Spot.”
The Greenbergs opened a unique gift shop named “The Tidepool Gallery,” which became a well-regarded destination for serious specimen shell collectors. It also showcased creations of jewelry, baskets, ceramics, books and paintings by local artists.
The building and the little gallery survived fires, el Ninos, and highway closures for another 21 years, becoming an integral participant in community events while remaining Malibuites’ favorite oasis of fine gifts from the oceans of the world.
After Ruth Greenberg moved to northern California, Jan Greenberg managed the business alone for 15 years.
When it was time to retire in 1991, Greenberg remembers that there was also an emotional aspect to her decision to close the gallery. “I no longer wanted to be a part of the systematic pillage of the ocean’s treasures for man’s pleasure in possessing them,” she said.
Until recently, a sign with only the word “Tidepool” reminded passers-by of the past life of 22762 PCH, while different businesses leased offices there.
Transfer records show that in 2008 Wavebreak, LLC came into title and remains the most recent transfer deed, according to an email from Mitch Litrov—California Title Company.
The new owner, reportedly Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, who owns the adjacent properties, paid just under $9.6 for the property, recently began making changes to the familiar edifice. Now a new chapter will begin for this more than 60-year-old survivor of progress in Malibu.
MID-CENTURY Modern—Clean, straight, forward lines define the unknown architect’s structure built at 22762 PCH in the late 1940s. The building’s nearly 70-year history may be reaching an end.

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