Since, so many celebrities and tech giants build their homes in California, there is no surprise that the state is full of mansions. But, one grand house that stands out from the rest is Hearst Castle.
In the Gilded Age of the United States, few men could boast as much wealth as the famous newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. In 1865, his father had purchased 40,000 acres of ranch land in California, which Hearst inherited. He also bought the land around it and eventually made his property grow to a whopping 250,000 acres around San Simeon. Hearst built his vast retreat with beautiful views of the Central Coast of California. La Cuesta Encantada (“Enchanted Hill”), was designed in grand fashion by Julia Morgan; California’s first licensed female architect.
Planning and construction began around 1919. By 1947, the opulent mansion, now nicknamed “The Castle,” had grown to 165 rooms and 123 acres of gardens surrounding it. These included: a private zoo, a stable for Arabian horses and airstrip and a winery, among many other features for Hearst and his guests. Unfortunately, Hearst himself had to leave his majestic palace due to ill health in 1947, before it was completed.
In 1958, seven years after Hearst’s death, Hearst Castle was made a state park. It is one of the state’s most visited historic monuments. With four different daily tours of the main house and the surrounding grounds and cottages, as well as special seasonal tours, visitors easily spend a day or more exploring the house and grounds.
And there is so much to explore in and around Hearst Castle. The mansion itself showcases an amazing art collection. It features everything from ancient Egyptian and Greek statuary to paintings by European masters, as well as Eastern and Art Deco items. Many of the rooms were designed around the art they contained. The two pools on the grounds are also not to be missed. The outdoor Neptune Pool is a huge feat of engineering. It stretches 104 feet long with an antique Roman temple facade that was shipped from Italy and was heated using an oil-burning system. The Roman indoor pool is modeled on a Roman bath, with blue and gold glass mosaic across the roof of the pool to evoke the night sky. Hearst’s wine cellar was built during Prohibition and included locked vaults to protect his vast wine collection. Although Hearst’s zoo is no longer there, visitors can see the bear pits and other features on the grounds. Since, some of the animals were released into the surrounding countryside after dismantling the zoo, it is possible to see some of the descendants of the original inmates around, including a zebra.
Over the years, many restoration and preservation projects have been done, in order preserve the splendor of Hearst Castle for future generations to visit. Conservators protect the architecture of the building, as well as the many works of art inside, thanks to the generosity of the Castle’s two foundations. It is truly a one-of-a-kind place to visit and enjoy and hopefully it will stay that way for many years to come.