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What is Hearst Castle?

Hearst Castle is an architectural marvel perched atop the rolling hills of San Simeon, California. Built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, this grand estate boasts opulent rooms, lush gardens, and priceless art. It's a testament to early 20th-century luxury and ambition. Imagine wandering its halls—what secrets and stories might the walls of this historic mansion reveal to you? Continue exploring with us.
Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

Hearst Castle is one of the most well-known California landmarks and tourist attractions. It's an extremely large estate once owned by wealthy publisher William Randolph Hearst and donated to the State of California by his family in 1957. William's father, George, purchased the land that eventually became part of the state historic park in 1865. Designed by civil engineer Julia Morgan, the first woman to graduate with an architecture degree from Paris' prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Hearst Castle was built on the property in the 1930s. Different tour options are available at the castle's location near the city of San Simeon, California, which is close to San Luis Obispo.

All of the tours include views of both swimming pools at Hearst Castle. The Neptune is the name of the property's outdoor pool, while the Roman is the castle's indoor swimming structure. Greco-Roman columns and statues decorate the Neptune in grand style, while opulent gold and Venetian glass adorn the Roman swimming pool. As an indication of the immense size of everything at the castle, including the swimming structures, Neptune Pool alone has 18 dressing rooms.

Hearst Castle is near San Simeon, in San Luis Obispo County, California.
Hearst Castle is near San Simeon, in San Luis Obispo County, California.

In addition to the main house, the outdoor pool and numerous flower gardens, the exterior property features tennis courts, a zoo and an airfield. There are also separate buildings that were used as guest houses. The Casa Del Sol guest house has 18 rooms and overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The main house at Hearst Castle, called Casa Grande, features many beautiful spaces that include a games room with two 1920s billiard tables and a library with more than 4,000 books. The wine cellars are stocked with Californian, as well as rare European, wines.

William Randolph Hearst's estate was designed by Julia Morgan.
William Randolph Hearst's estate was designed by Julia Morgan.

All tours are about an hour or two in length; making reservations as well as checking ahead for tour days and times is recommended. While the several different interior tours offered are all guided, the outdoor garden tours may be self-guided. The guides mention how life was when the Hearst family lived at the estate, such as what the many different buildings were used for as well as the origin of their different tapestries and valuable art pieces.

Patty Hearst, now Patricia Hearst-Shaw, the granddaughter of William Randolph, was involved in one of the biggest news stories in American history when she was kidnapped by the radical group Symbionese Liberatation Army (SLA) at age 19. Patty wasn't taken from the Hearst Castle property, but rather from the Berkeley, California, apartment she shared with her fiance at the time. What made the story especially remarkable is that she was said to have had Stockholm syndrome, which occurs when the victim sympathizes and bonds with his or her captors. Hearst was jailed for two years for robbing a bank with members of the SLA. The 39th and 42nd American presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, helped get Patty Hearst a commutation from her jail sentence.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Hearst Castle and why is it famous?

Hearst Castle is a historic estate located in San Simeon, California, known for its opulent architecture, extensive art collection, and its role as a social hub for the elite during the early 20th century. Built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, the castle is famous for its grandeur and the lavish lifestyle it represented. It is now a National Historic Landmark and a California State Park, attracting numerous visitors who come to marvel at its beauty and historical significance.

Can you visit Hearst Castle and what can you see there?

Yes, Hearst Castle is open to the public for tours. Visitors can explore various parts of the estate, including the grand rooms, gardens, and pools. The main house, "Casa Grande," showcases impressive rooms such as the Assembly Room, Refectory, and the Billiard Room. The estate's art collection spans centuries, featuring Renaissance and Baroque tapestries, antique furniture, and classical sculptures. The outdoor Neptune Pool and indoor Roman Pool are also highlights for their intricate mosaics and architectural design.

How many rooms does Hearst Castle have, and what is unique about its architecture?

Hearst Castle boasts 165 rooms, including 115 rooms in the main house alone. The architecture is a unique blend of Mediterranean Revival, Spanish Revival, and other European styles, reflecting Hearst's vision and his architect Julia Morgan's expertise. The estate's design incorporates elements from various historical periods and regions, creating a pastiche that is both eclectic and harmonious. Its grandeur is complemented by the surrounding gardens, terraces, and pools, which add to the estate's allure.

What was William Randolph Hearst's role in the creation of Hearst Castle?

William Randolph Hearst was the visionary behind Hearst Castle. He inherited the land from his father and enlisted architect Julia Morgan in 1919 to create a retreat that would house his growing art collection. Hearst was deeply involved in the design and construction process, providing detailed instructions and feedback to Morgan. His ambition was to build a "museum of the best things that I can secure," resulting in the magnificent estate that stands today.

How has Hearst Castle been preserved, and what is its status today?

Hearst Castle has been meticulously preserved through the efforts of the California State Parks system and the Hearst Castle Preservation Foundation. After Hearst's death, the estate was donated to the state of California, and it was opened to the public as a museum. Today, it is a National Historic Landmark and operates as a state historical monument. Ongoing conservation projects ensure that the castle and its artifacts remain in excellent condition for future generations to appreciate.

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    • Hearst Castle is near San Simeon, in San Luis Obispo County, California.
      By: qingwa
      Hearst Castle is near San Simeon, in San Luis Obispo County, California.
    • William Randolph Hearst's estate was designed by Julia Morgan.
      By: Robert Hoetink
      William Randolph Hearst's estate was designed by Julia Morgan.