Former Santa Monica weightlifting haven up for auction

Long before Arnold Schwarzenegger began a routine of heavy legislative lifting in Sacramento, the governor popularized the sport of bodybuilding in his 1977 cult classic film “Pumping Iron.”

And when the paparazzi descended on Schwarzenegger and fellow celebrity bodybuilders in the film’s wake, the place where he went to work out in private was World Gym, the no-frills Santa Monica haven founded by weightlifting guru Joe Gold. The place became a second home for Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno and other famed iron men.

On Wednesday, the three-story building at 2210 Main St. is slated to go to auction through AuctionPoint, an online outfit. In addition to World Gym, the building for a time housed Schwarzenegger and Ferrigno in an apartment with a surprising amount of girlie-man pale pink tile.

The starting bid for the former weightlifting den: $3.1 million.

“I think this is the right time because we’ve seen the value go from $6 million to $4.75 million,” building owner Jerry Breeden said recently. “Quite honestly, I have many uses for the profit margin we’ll derive.”

Until about three years ago, the building held the offices and sample rooms for Breeden’s Aviva Group, a manufacturer of pricey handbags and Swarovski crystals. It also was home to Breeden and his wife, Maggie, who shared the ocean-view penthouse that Gold occupied for many years. Their daughter’s family lived in Schwarzenegger’s former quarters on the Main Street side. And their son and his family occupied a second-floor apartment. (Breeden is now based in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.)

Gold, a close friend and mentor of Schwarzenegger, died in 2004 at age 82. He served in the Navy during World War II and was badly injured when his ship was torpedoed in the Philippines. After the war, he joined the merchant marine and sailed the world, lifting weights and building a remarkable physique.

He became a Muscle Beach regular and opened Gold’s Gym in Venice in 1964, developing workout machines that went beyond dumbbells and barbells.

“In 1968, when I first came to America, Gold’s Gym was the gym where I first went to work out,” Schwarzenegger wrote in a public statement after Gold’s death. Although the Austrian by then had become the youngest Mr. Universe at age 20, Gold nicknamed him “Balloon Belly” and put him to work toning his abs. “Joe looked after me and encouraged me,” Schwarzenegger said.

Gold sold Gold’s Gym about 1970, but got back into the business in 1976 when he opened the first World Gym at 2210 Main St. The chain grew to more than 300 locations. The machines and buff bodies of Main Street are long gone, replaced in part by Alchemy Wellness, which offers “raindrop therapy.”

Tom Corte, the agent handling the listing, said Schwarzenegger’s love of Santa Monica was fostered at the location. Schwarzenegger later bought a building nearby.