Friday, December 31, 2010

California Dreamin' – Hearst Castle

A North Carolina Cottage

While today there is an emphasis on smaller, greener living spaces with mini-ecological footprints that appeal to more energy-conscious buyers, such concerns did not exist in William Randolph Hearst's day. It would take 1,407 of these 64-square foot North Carolina cabins to fill up Hearst's estate.

In fact, the media magnate, who was so obviously not in the forefront of the small-house-movement, spent decades overseeing construction of his gigantic 90,080 square foot estate with its four main buildings containing 56 bedrooms, 41 fireplaces, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, and two libraries.

One of the many guest rooms.
So his guests would not tire of the accommodations, there were also extensive gardens planted with 6,000 rosebushes (Because Hearst couldn't stand watching them, the gardeners worked only at night.) and a 2,000-acre zoo—once the country's largest.

One of the many small gardens gracing the grounds.

Roman Pool
Two pools were built to accommodate swimmers. The outdoor Neptune Pool, just 61 feet short of Olympic-size, is an ode to Greek architecture with statues of Neptune and the Nereid statues surrounded by colonnades, while the indoor pool mimics a Roman temple with statues of eight gods and goddesses on the perimeter and a floor mosaic of lapis lazuli and gold-infused tiles.
Neptune Pool
Hearst once said, “Pleasure is worth what you can afford to pay for it,” and his “pleasure” cost a fortune. Paintings, sarcophagi, tapestries, statues, and furniture were bought from art dealers all over the globe, yet Hearst's practical side was revealed in the dining room. There, with ancient, costly tapestries on the walls surrounding a dining table seating forty, were mustard and ketchup bottles! When I asked the guide about this informal touch in such a grand room, she said that the Hearsts wanted their guests to be comfortable.
One of the two libraries
But such comfort did not apply to room service. A guest requesting morning coffee would be told to go to the kitchen or dining room because Hearst wanted guests to interact, and he himself wanted to plumb their minds for interesting ideas. Social interaction would have been impossible if guests could lounge about in their rooms.

One permanent guest, Marion Davies, began living in the mansion in 1919. Although he remained legally married to Millicent, whom Hearst married in 1903, Marion supplanted Hearst's wife as hostess at the lavish parties frequently held at the mansion. Marion and William entertained dozens of actors and actresses, politicians including Calvin Coolidge and Churchill, writers, and even Howard Hughes and Charles Lindbergh.

Almost every room has a stunning view
Although no famous people roam the grounds today, the Hearst San Simeon Historic Monument is extraordinarily popular, second only to Disneyland in number of visitors each year. I imagine Jeff, who built the 64 square foot North Carolina cabin would find the estate to be excessive in every way, but if you'd like to judge for yourself, it is wise to order tickets for one of the handful of tours in advance. You must also arrive thirty minutes early to assure a seat on the bus that transports you from the entrance hall to the estate itself. Click here for more information.


  1. Very nice place! Such a stunning view.

  2. Wow! This is such a cute little cottage! The places are amazing!