Hearst Castle


Heidi Pereira

May 2008

Some may have heard of William Randolph Hearst being the newspaper magnate of his time beginning in 1887. He took over his fathers California newspaper The San Francisco Examiner which was given to Hearst's father as a gambling debt. Hearst was still a student at Harvard University but asked his father to let him run the business. At the time newspapers were the only source of media available to the people and much more popular then it is today. With the inventions of the television and computers it is rarely recognized and looked at as the same as it did then. Of course with every other new business idea everything will typically run well and the profit will be great if all is handled correctly. Hearst made sure to put in long hours and money to make this business a success.  This success of his resulted in huge profits and he quickly became a millionaire of his time and the publisher of his magazine. He was the son of a self-made millionaire George Hearst, who purchased a ranch originally in 1865. Hearst would spend many of his family vacations at this ranch and grew very fond of it. After establishing himself he decided to renovate the ranch and make it his estate. With the help of his architect Julia Morgan he was able to create an estate way beyond what anyone would ever imagine. This construction has now became known as Hearst Castle one of the most pleasant estates you can lay your eyes on, and it is well worth the three hour rocky drive to experience it.            

In order to understand the architecture of the castle it is best to first understand the man behind the whole project, and the architect that made it all possible. William Hearst was born on the 29th of April 1863 in San Francisco California to George Hearst and Phoebe Apperson. He was already heir to a mining fortune, which was earned by his father, and at the age of twenty three developed a series of newspapers that became influential and national brands. Hearst was also involved in a bit of politics having served two terms in the U.S. Congress, but failed to win two races for the position of mayor of New York. Hearst would purchase these newspaper companies that were not doing too well either by the success of his, or the lack of their information to keep the public interested to purchase. After purchasing them he would have the most talented writers join the team and provide them with the best equipment. He made sure to publish stories that were in relation to the public and it resulted in the top sales of his newspapers. Just within a few years his newspaper dominated the San Francisco market. Hearst had the money to make sure his newspapers were distributed to as many cities as possible, and it grew to "Hearst ultimately created a chain that at its peak numbered nearly thirty papers in major American cities. Eventually, he expanded into magazines as well, building the largest newspaper and magazine chain in the world."1 With his great success and great interest for his father's ranch and owner of 250,000 acres of land, he soon hooked up with a San Francisco architect Morgan.            

Morgan was born in San Francisco California in January of 1872, and was an American architect.  She also was the architect of over seven hundred buildings, but best recognized for her work on Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. She graduated from UC Berkeley in 1894 with a degree in civil engineering. After she decided to move on to Paris and try to gain acceptance into the famous architect school Ecole des Beaux-Arts, but was denied. She continued trying for over two years claiming they were not accepting her because she was female. Finally the school admitted her and she became the first female to graduate with an architecture degree from the school. Soon after she returned back to San Francisco and began working on a few projects. Hearst's mother Phoebe was the chief patroness of UC Berkeley and introduced him to Morgan in 1914 when he introduced the idea of renovating the ranch. Finally in 1919 Hearst hired Morgan and she became Hearst's principle architect from that moment on. With his ideas and her imagination and experience to make it all realistic they worked together side by side and created the Hearst Castle we see today.            

 Hearst was known to tear down structures and rebuild them if he ever felt the need to, or changed his mind and came up with a better idea. The castle can not be described as being all in one sort of theme, but he brought in the idea of many different types of historical styles which he admired. He traveled a lot around Europe and picked up many of his ideas and brought them into the castle. From the main castle, to the airstrips, and zoo you pick up the feeling of being inside of a small city. The castle itself contained of "56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield, and the world's largest private zoo."2 There was no limit on how far Hearst could take the project as he would just continue to add as many different ideas. The zoo had two components to it, one was a collection of caged animals and that was located a few hundred yards north of the Castle. The rest of the animals were roaming free in the area, and still do so until this day. It was stated that "In a letter to his architect Julia Morgan, Hearst stated that he wanted his guests to feel as though they were driving through an area populated by interesting and exotic animals in their natural state, not a zoo."3 There was not one single detail that Hearst kept to himself that he did want to see in affect to the castle.            

Going through an estate which consisted of fifty six bedrooms you can write up a whole book describing the different features and design of each room. Every room had a part museum, part hunting lodge vibe to it. Hearst made sure to bring in a bit of history to each room and have it frozen in time, along with an influence of Spain and Egypt from the designs. There are sixteenth century Spanish elements found in the main house. The main house called "La Casa Grande" is the setting for Hearst's collection of European antiques and art pieces. He also used this room as the most fitting to host his guests in, and many of them being influential guests. The name of this structure lived up to its expectations by being Grande indeed. "With about 45,000 square feet of space and about 115 rooms, this residence has 26 bedrooms, 32 bathrooms, 14 sitting rooms, two libraries, a dining room measuring 2,000 square feet, 30 fireplaces, a billiard room, a beauty salon, and a movie theater with projection room. In addition, the service wing of the main building contains a pantry, servants' dining room, kitchen, 12 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, and seven other rooms used by domestic staff"4 The front of the main house was partly based on a church at Ronda in southern Spain. There are twin towers located in the front and it has been constructed with reinforced concrete and stone. This building is located in the highest point with a view of the Santa Lucia Mountains and the seacoast. There are two stories above the base of the structure, with a balcony in both the second and third floor. Morgan added late Gothic Spanish sculptures from Hearst's collection into the building.

As if the main house was not impressive enough another eye catching construction is of the Roman Pool. This is the indoor pool located underneath two tennis courts which illuminates light by the skylights between the two tennis courts. There are tall arched windows on each side and tall standing marble lands as well. All of the surfaces consist of blue and gold mosaic tile, and copies of Greco-Roman sculptures to give it the effect. "Curvilinear marble ladders indicate Morgan's consistent attention to detail."5 There is also classical Roman architecture which can be seen in the magnificent pool. The Neptune Pool is the most apparent with the Roman Empire influence embedded in it. Having a first glance at the pool would take your breath away as you immediately recognize its design with columns and statues along with a view of the California coast. It was originally set to be constructed much smaller then the end result, and turned out to be enlarged twice. "Hearst eventually had it extended to more than 100 feet in length, with a 345,000-gallon capacity"6 Next to this pool is the pool house known as Casa Del Sol, which consists of six bedrooms constructed in a total of over 2,500 sq. feet. The reason for its name Casa Del Sol was because the guest house faced the sunset. It was built on the hillside below the main house so it does not affect the view of the castle. Many of the architecture and fragments that went into this building was from what Hearst had purchased for the design. Similar to the Casa Del Sol another guest house was constructed known as Casa del Mar. This one has a Spanish name and its referring to the fact that the building is facing towards the sea. There is a mix of Spanish architecture in this building from the white walls and red tiles, as well as Renaissance from the details. The third cottage or guest house is known as the Casa Del Monte, which also is Spanish referring to the building facing the mountains. This structure like the other two have the Spanish and Renaissance style mixed into it. However, unlike the other two this structure does not have a monumental hillside face. Hearst did not want to stop with just buildings structures and knew there was more he can add to the land he had available all around.

Visiting Hearst Castle you immediately wonder how people at that time came out to visit Hearst, especially since he enjoyed have company almost every night and hosted many of the wealthiest people. Where we stand in today as the visitor center of the Castle with the tickets and snacks being sold and where the initial tour begins, it was once the airport and airstrip of Hearst Castle. Many stars, politicians, and influential members of society were flown in for parties, and Hearst also used the strip to have every one of his newspapers sent to him so he can review them. "Famous aviators that visited Hearst's ranch included; Sir Charles Kingford-Smith, Howard Hughes, Amelia Earhart, and Charles Lindbergh."7 In 1946 the airstrip moved one mile north and is still used by the Hearst family, but not open to the public. Hearst could not stop there but decided to also have a garden "which was in harmony with the Mediterranean Revival style buildings."8  Morgan and Hearst's influence came mainly from Italian and Spanish gardens of Europe. Head gardener of the estate was Norman Rotanzi since 1957 until he retired, but left a legacy of preservations that many are trying to fulfill today. Hearst made sure that his guests never ran out of things to do. Located in the main house is also a movie theater which usually screened films from Hearst's own movie studio, and a billiard room.

I decided to go with tour one for my visit to Hearst Castle since it is the most popular for first time visitors. This tour included the Casa Grande, Casa Del Sol, Esplanade and Gardens, and the Neptune and Roman Pool. My expectations of this castle were really high because of the hype I received through reading about it and viewing a few pictures. After a three hour long rocky drive along the coast of California I arrived at the visiting center of the Castle. From there you are driven up to the entrance of the castle where your tour begins. The amount of information you take in for each site you visit makes it seem impossible to tour the entirety of the castle in one day. Our first stop was the Neptune Pool which already took my breath away. Just with viewing this up front I already had an idea of what to expect from the rest of my visit and I became more ecstatic. The tour guide gave us some information on the construction for the Neptune Pool which has already been mentioned and a few of the famous stars that swam in the pool. As we continued on with the tour we moved up the stairs towards one of the main guesthouse, the eighteen room Casa Del Sol. We did not tour through all eighteen rooms of the guesthouse, but walked through about four bedrooms, four bathrooms, and one sitting room. The bathrooms remained in the style of when it was first built so they came off to look real old fashion. The bedrooms also gave an old and somewhat gaudy vibe to it because of the designs. Upon exiting the Casa Del Sol we were back outside and ready to head on towards the main house.

The path from the Casa Del Sol to the main house was beautiful because of the Esplanade and Gardens of the Castle. The grounds for the garden were well taken care of and preserved creating an amazing aroma from all the different types of flowers planted. Our tour guide stopped once again as we can view the right side of the main house and also to view a few sculptures that were from Egypt, which were amazing and made from real marble. We then carried through to sitting on the benches directly facing the front of Casa Grande as the tour guide gave us some information on the Spanish influenced construction. He also pointed out the gothic European influence from the David and Goliath sculptures, as well as two Conquistadors located on both sides of the entrance. We finally were able to enter the most anticipated part of the tour, the Casa Grande. First we entered a sitting room filled with Persian rugs hung all over the walls, a piano, a huge fire place, and poker table. This room was described as the entertainment room where many of the guests mingled and spent time in. We then moved on to a breath taking dining room area with high ceilings, and flags posted on the walls. The dining room table was rather long and able to seat about twenty four guests. The next room we entered was the mini-movie theater which had an interesting design to it. It had a very dark and gloomy feel with a burgundy colored interior and Egyptian looking sculptures hung on the walls which illuminated light for the room. We then watched a few clips from the life of William Randolph Hearst before leaving. The tour ended with yet another amazing pool and left me as breathless as when it first began. The indoor pool known as the Roman Pool was a site you would only dream about and never think to view it up close. The patterns were from a traditional Roman bath consisting of actual twenty four karat gold inlay, and being the most expensive room in the castle. This tour left me wondering about the many other sites to explore within the castle, and definitely impressed me enough to come back for a second and possibly third visit to catch every tour.

1 Wikipedia, William Randolph Hearst, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Randolph_Hearst , Internet 2008

2 Wikipedia, Hearst Castle, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearst_Castle, Internet 2008

3 Hearst Zoo, Animal Hill, http://www.hearstcastle.org/history/zoo.asp, Internet 2001-2007

4 San Simeon California, Casa Grande (Main Building), Hearst Castle, http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/jmhearstss/main.html, Internet

5 San Simeon California, Roman Pool, Hearst Castle, http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/jmhearstss/roman.html, Internet

6 San Simeon California, Hearst Castle, Neptune Pool, http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/jmhearstss/pool.html , Internet

7 Hearst Castle, Hearst Airport, http://www.hearstcastle.org/history/airport.asp, Internet 2001-2007

8 Hearst Castle, The Gardens, http://www.hearstcastle.com/behind_scenes/gardens.asp, Internet 2001-2007



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