On our drive up the Pacific Coast Highway California Route 1, we stopped for several hours in San Simeon at Hearst Castle. San Simeon is the town, but it’s best known for Hearst Castle. William Randolph Hearst once had an estate here with 250,000 acres! He built his own personal castle on La Cuesta Encantada, “Enchanted Hill.” Once the Xanadu of Hollywood’s elite, it’s now a state park where “everyman” can visit…although the pool is not likely to be open to visitors.
The grounds were once used as a ranch. The Hearsts did a lot of camping here decades before the current structures were built, probably that era’s version of glamping, given the family wealth. (His father had made millions in silver mining.) When W.R.Hearst had the property, he installed a zoo for the entertainment of his guests. Zebras still roam the grounds alongside beef cattle. Today Hearst Beef is featured in the cafe, which promises “something for everyone,” hopefully no zebra steaks!
The structure is imposing, with unusual architectural features. Hearst worked closely with his architect Julia Morgan (imagine, a lady architect in the early 1900s!) to design and redesign the structure. They started construction in 1919 and still hadn’t finished when Hearst left with dwindling health in 1947.
Hearst is well known for his publishing success. He also produced 100 or so films. One was The Perils of Pauline, a silent film serial featuring a heroine in antics worthy of The Amazing Race (e.g. mountain climbing, balloon riding). Very inspirational! This starred Pearl White, a young starlet. Hearst was surrounded by many beautiful young actresses as Hollywood transitioned from silent movies to talkies.
Inside, the castle is filled with artwork Hearst collected on many trips to Europe.
This tapestry, large as it is, is dwarfed by the long dining room table where Hearst and his muse Marion Davies entertained celebrities.
While much of the art would fit extremely well in a museum of European treasures, some of the artwork is more whimsical.
The Neptune Pool looks like a great setting for an Esther Williams movie. It’s over 100 feet long and up to 10 feet deep. Even more impressive are the bas-reliefs, Greek columns, and Vermont marble. The pool was drained several years ago to repair leaks. Given the drought conditions in California, there are no plans to refill it with the 345,000 gallons it holds.
The second pool is an indoor Roman bath. This one features eight Roman and Greek statues and tens of thousands (maybe millions?) of 1″ glass tiles creating colorful mosaics of blue and orange florals and geometrics.
We weren’t invited to stay in the guest house, so we left Hearst Castle to go to Truckee.