We decided to take our time on the way home from Santa Barbara. En route to our B&B up the coast the day after Christmas, we stopped at Hearst Castle. If you haven’t heard the story, William Randolph Hearst‘s father George bought the property in 1865 and added to it over the years. The Hearst family had a ranch there and camped on the property frequently. When William inherited he contracted the famous San Francisco architect Julia Morgan to “build a little something,” on the site he had loved from boyhood.
That was in 1919 and the project was still not finished in 1947 when William left the estate for the last time due to ill health. The initial structures later became “guest houses” once the Casa Grande was completed. The smallest of the guest houses was 2,550 square feet. Casa Grande was 68,500 square feet.
Mr. Hearst entertained frequently and guests were numerous, including Cary Grant, Jean Harlow, Harpo Marx, Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, and Howard Hughes among many many others.
Besides a family home, and place for entertaining those he deemed interesting, Mr. Hearst also intended the property to be a museum displaying his famed collection of European and Mediterranean art. The collection includes architectural elements, paintings, sculptures, textiles, and tapestries. The Hearst Corporation donated the estate to California in 1957. It is now a State Park and has received more than 30 million visitors since it opened to the public 1958.
There are several tours available. Since the property is still a working ranch for the Hearst Corporation, visitors enter the property at a visitor center and are bused up to the estate site. The guides are well informed, well organized, and courteous. My hubs chafed a bit at having to stay with the group and listen to the guide, but I really enjoyed it, and after the guided portion they turned us loose to explore the exterior areas including the acre upon acre of gardens and my favorite thing on the property… the indoor Roman Bath.
We both thought it was worth the 25$ each ticket for the experience. The story of Mr. Hearst’s life is fascinating, the guides tell it well, the property is jaw dropping, and the views from the estate are heartbreaking.
Have you been to Hearst Castle? If so, what did you think?