Hearst Castle


Hearst Castle is located about 250 miles from Los Angeles or San Francisco, and 43 miles from San Luis Obispo, the nearest city with an airport
Hearst Castle was the palatial estate of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. It is located near San Simeon, California, on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Donated by the Hearst Corporation to the state of California in 1957, it is now a State Historical Monument and a National Historic Landmark, open for public tours. Hearst formally named the estate 'La Cuesta Encantada' ('The Enchanted Hill'), but he usually just called it 'the ranch'.

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Hearst Castle was built on a 40,000 acre ranch that William Randolph Hearst's father, George Hearst, originally purchased in 1865. The younger Hearst grew fond of this site over many childhood family camping trips. He inherited the ranch, which had grown to 250,000 acres, from his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, upon her death in 1919. Construction began that same year and continued through 1947, when he stopped living at the estate due to ill health. San Francisco architect Julia Morgan designed most of the buildings. Hearst was an inveterate tinkerer, and would tear down structures and rebuild them at a whim, so the estate was never completed in his lifetime.

The estate is a pastiche of historic architectural styles that Hearst admired in his travels around Europe. For example, the main house is modeled after a 16th century Spanish cathedral, while the outdoor pool features a mock temple front based on ancient Roman designs. Hearst furnished the estate with truckloads of art, antiques, and even whole ceilings that he acquired en masse from the great houses of Europe. Hearst Castle was like a small self-contained city, with 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, one indoor and one outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield, and the world's largest private zoo. Zebras and other exotic animals still roam the grounds. Morgan, an accomplished civil engineer, devised a gravity-based water delivery system from a nearby mountain. Some of the highlights of the estate include the Neptune Pool, which features an expansive vista of the mountains, ocean and the main house.

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Invitations to Hearst Castle were highly coveted during its heyday in the 1920s and '30s. The Hollywood and political elite often visited, usually flying into the estate's airfield or taking a private Hearst-owned train car from Los Angeles. Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Charles Lindbergh, Joan Crawford, Calvin Coolidge, and Winston Churchill were among Hearst's A-list guests. While guests were expected to attend the formal dinners each evening, they were normally left to their own devices during the day while Hearst directed his business affairs. Since "the Ranch" had so many facilities, guests were rarely at a loss for things to do. The estate's theater usually screened films from Hearst's own movie studio, Cosmopolitan Productions. Hearst Castle became so famous that it was parodied in the 1941 Orson Welles film Citizen Kane as Charles Foster Kane's "Xanadu." The estate is shown as a gloomy and ridiculously self-indulgent barony.

One condition of the Hearst Corporation's donation of the estate was that the Hearst family would be allowed to use it when they wished. Patty Hearst, a granddaughter of William Randolph, related that as a child, she hid behind statues in the Neptune Pool while tours passed by. After a room in the estate was bombed in the 1970s during her crime spree with the Symbionese Liberation Army, no member of the family has ever returned to live there. However, the media has enlisted Hearst family members for publicity purposes, as when Patty Hearst hosted a Travel Channel show on the estate in 2001, and Amanda Hearst modeled for a fashion photo shoot at the estate for a Hearst Corporation magazine, Town and Country, in 2006.

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