Hearst Castle

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Annual Visitors
850,000
Amenity List
art collection,display,events,festival,garden,golf,museum,pond,shop,show,swimming pool,theater,zoo,

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, is a National Historic Landmark and California Historical Landmark located on the Central Coast of California in the United States. Conceived by William Randolph Hearst, the publishing tycoon, and his architect Julia Morgan, it was built between 1919 and 1947. Known formally as 'La Cuesta Encantada' (The Enchanted Hill), and often referred to simply as San Simeon, Hearst called his castle “the ranch'. His father George Hearst had purchased the original 40,000 acres (162km2) estate in 1865 and Camp Hill, the site for the future Hearst Castle, was used for family camping vacations during Hearst's youth. In 1919 Hearst inherited some $11 million (equivalent to $162,213,052in 2019) and estates including the land at San Simeon. He used his fortune to further develop his media empire of newspapers, magazines and radio stations, the profits from which supported a lifetime of building and collecting. Within a few months of Phoebe Hearst's death, he had commissioned Morgan to build 'something a little more comfortable up on the hill', the genesis of the present castle. Morgan was an architectural pioneer; 'America's first truly independent female architect', she was the first woman to study architecture at the School of Beaux-Arts in Paris, the first to have her own architectural practice in California and the first female winner of the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal. Working in close collaboration with Hearst for over twenty years, the castle at San Simeon is her best-known creation.

In the Roaring Twenties and into the 1930s, Hearst Castle reached its social peak. Originally intended as a family home for Hearst, his wife Millicent and their five sons, by 1925 he and Millicent had effectively separated and he held court at San Simeon with his mistress, the actress Marion Davies. Their guest list comprised most of the Hollywood stars of the period; Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, the Marx Brothers, Greta Garbo, Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, Jean Harlow and Clark Gable all visited, some on multiple occasions. Political luminaries encompassed Calvin Coolidge and Winston Churchill while other notables included Charles Lindbergh, P. G. Wodehouse and Bernard Shaw. Visitors gathered each evening at Casa Grande for drinks in the Assembly Room, dined in the Refectory and watched the latest movie in the theater before retiring to the luxurious accommodation provided by the guest houses of Casa del Mar, Casa del Monte and Casa del Sol. During the days, they admired the views, rode, played tennis, bowls or golf and swam in the 'most sumptuous swimming pool on earth'. While Hearst entertained, Morgan built; the castle was under almost continual construction from 1920 until 1939, with work resuming after the end of World War II until Hearst's final departure in 1947.

Hearst, his castle and his lifestyle were satirized by Orson Welles in his 1941 film Citizen Kane. In the film, which Hearst sought to suppress, Charles Foster Kane's palace Xanadu is said to contain 'paintings, pictures, statues, the very stones of many another palace– a collection of everything so big it can never be cataloged or appraised; enough for ten museums; the loot of the world'. Welles's allusion referred to Hearst's mania for collecting; the dealer Joseph Duveen called him the 'Great Accumulator'. With a passion for acquisition almost from childhood, he bought architectural elements, art, antiques, statuary, silverware and textiles on an epic scale. Shortly after starting San Simeon, he began to conceive of making the castle 'a museum of the best things that I can secure'.things that I can secure'. Foremost among his purchases were architectural elements from Western Europe, particularly Spain; over thirty ceilings, doorcases, fireplaces and mantels, entire monasteries, paneling and a medieval tithe barn were purchased, shipped to Hearst's Brooklyn warehouses and transported on to California. Much was then incorporated into the fabric of Hearst Castle. In addition, he built up collections of more conventional art and antiques of high quality; his assemblage of ancient Greek vases was one of the world's largest.

In May 1947, Hearst's health compelled him and Marion Davies to leave the castle for the last time. He died in Los Angeles in 1951. Morgan died in 1957. In the same year, the Hearst family gave the castle and many of its contents to the State of California. It has since operated as the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument and attracts about 750,000 visitors annually. The Hearst family retains ownership of the majority of the 82,000 acres (332km2) wider estate and, under a land conservation agreement reached in 2005, has worked with the California State Parks Department and American Land Conservancy to preserve the undeveloped character of the area; the setting for the castle which Shaw is said to have described as 'what God would have built if he had had the money'.

The coastal range of Southern California has been occupied since prehistoric times. The indigenous inhabitants were the Salinans and the Chumash. In the late 18th century, Spanish missions were established in the area to convert the native American population. The Mission San Miguel Arcángel, one of the largest, opened in what is now San Luis Obispo county in 1797. By the 1840s, the mission had declined and the priests departed. In that decade, the governors of Mexican California distributed the mission lands in a series of grants. Three of these were Rancho Piedra Blanca, Rancho Santa Rosa and Rancho San Simeon. The Mexican–American War of 1846–1848 saw the area pass into the control of the United States under the terms of the Mexican Cession. The California Gold Rush of the next decade brought an influx of American settlers, among whom was the 30-year old George Hearst.

Born in Missouri in 1820, Hearst made his fortune as a miner, notably at the Comstock Lode and the Homestake Mine. He then undertook a political career, becoming a senator in 1886, and bought The San Francisco Examiner. Investing in land, he bought the Piedra Blanca property in 1865 and subsequently extended his holdings with the acquisition of most of the Santa Rosa estate, and much of the San Simeon lands. In the 1870s George Hearst built a ranch house on the estate, which remains a private property maintained by the Hearst Corporation, and the San Simeon area became a site for family camping expeditions, including his young son, William. A particularly favored spot was named Camp Hill, the site of the future Hearst Castle. Years later Hearst recalled his early memories of the place. 'My father brought me to San Simeon as a boy. I had to come up the slope hanging on to the tail of a pony. We lived in a cabin on this spot and I could see forever. That's the West– forever.' George Hearst developed the estate somewhat, introducing beef and dairy cattle, planting extensive fruit orchards, and expanding the wharf facilities at San Simeon Bay. He also bred racehorses. While his father developed the ranch, Hearst and his mother traveled, including an eighteen-month tour of Europe in 1873, where Hearst's life-long obsession with art collecting began.

At George Hearst's death in 1891, he left an estate of $18 million to his widow including the California ranch. Phoebe Hearst shared the cultural and artistic interests of her son, collecting art and patronizing architects. She was also a considerable philanthropist, founding schools and libraries, supporting the fledgling University of California, Berkeley, including the funding of the Hearst Mining Building in memory of her husband, and making major donations to a range of women's organizations, including the YWCA. During this period, probably in the late 1890s, Mrs Hearst encountered Julia Morgan, a young architecture student at Berkeley. On Phoebe Hearst's own death in 1919, Hearst inherited the ranch, which had grown to 250,000 acre...

  • Casa Grande, inspired by the Church of Santa María la Mayor, Ronda, Spain, forms the centerpiece of Hearst's estate.
  • The bell tower of the restored Mission San Miguel Arcángel
  • English: Photo circa 1926 of US architect Julia Morgan. Created as a carte de visite.
  • Marion Davies – Hearst's lover from 1918, and chatelaine of Hearst Castle
  • A publicity shot for Citizen Kane
  • Casa Grande at night
  • The Church of Santa María la Mayor, Ronda – Hearst's main inspiration
  • The single-story front elevation of Casa Del Mar
  • The rear elevation of Casa del Sol. The guest houses flank Casa Grande, echoing a tented encampment, and are single-storied at the front elevations with multiple levels to the rear.
  • Casa Grande from the Esplanade
  • The assembly room
  • The refectory
  • The library, with some of Hearst's collection of ancient Greek vases on the bookshelves
  • The Gothic Library, with Orin Peck's portrait of Hearst on the far wall
  • The billiard room with part of the millefleur tapestry to the right.
  • A Greek rhyton
  • Three Graces – copy of an original by Canova
  • The millefleur tapestry in the billiard room
  • Gérôme's Bonaparte Before the Sphinx which hangs in the sitting room of the Celestial Suites
  • The Neptune pool
  • The Roman pool
  • Sunset at San Simeon Bay
  • The sitting room in the Doge's Suite
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the United States
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Wikipedia Article
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Hearst Castle
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