Have You Heard of Hearst Castle?

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.

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Approaching from the south. The “castle” is a few miles inland of the coast.

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!

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Who would have imagined we’d see zebras in the American West on this leg of our travels?

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.

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The structure is considered Mediterranean Revival. Hearst was inspired by many trips he took to Europe and the Mediterranean with his mother.

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Casa Grande is the largest of several buildings, with nearly 70,000 square feet and 38 bedrooms.

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.

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Life imitating art or art imitating life? This sculpture could easily be one of the castle’s young female guests frozen in time.

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Not a bad view!

Inside, the castle is filled with artwork Hearst collected on many trips to Europe.

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This tapestry is from 1550, the Continence of Scipio.

This tapestry, large as it is, is dwarfed by the long dining room table where Hearst and his muse Marion Davies entertained celebrities.

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Imagine dining here with Winston Churchill, Charles Lindbergh, or Charlie Chaplin.

While much of the art would fit extremely well in a museum of European treasures, some of the artwork is more whimsical.

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This golden princess is holding a crowned frog prince.

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.

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A little more impressive than the local Y. Very tempting to jump off the terrace into the deep end.

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.

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A great place to luxuriate.

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This pool does have water in it. Note the design on the pool floor.

We weren’t invited to stay in the guest house, so we left Hearst Castle to go to Truckee.

 

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2 Responses to Have You Heard of Hearst Castle?

  1. Marcia OConnell says:

    I still have the shirt I got when we visited Hearst Castle with Stephen to celebrate his 40th birthday. It all looks the same. We stopped at Palm Springs on our way up the coast. Nice memories. Love, Marcia

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

  2. lmcvey104 says:

    Wow. I’d love to visit that! 

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

    Like

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