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Coastal California: Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle

I’d come there to bring down a bear. Maybe shoot a few zebra for that trophy room I always wanted. After all, its confirmed, Hearst had quite the exotic menagerie and some species still roam wild. In the end, I was stuck feeding lil’ man formula in Mr. Hearst’s dining room. But that was pretty cool, and you have to make the best with what you’re given.

In 1865, George Hearst, a wealthy miner, purchased 40,000-acres of ranchland that included the Mexican Ranchos of Piedras Blancas, San Simeon and Santa Rosa. In 1919, his only son, William Randolph Hearst, inherited the land from his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst. By then the ranch had grown to encompass 250,000 acres.

Originally known as “Camp Hill,” its wilderness offered a place for family members and friends to “rough it” on camping trips. Despite elaborate arrangements with separate sleeping and dining tents, Hearst envisioned more comfortable accommodations. His simple instructions to famed San Francisco architect Julia Morgan in 1919: “Miss Morgan, we are tired of camping out in the open at the ranch in San Simeon and I would like to build a little something”

Hearst and Morgan’s collaboration was destined to become one of the world’s greatest showplaces. As they were planning and constructing his dream home, Hearst renamed the rocky perch from which it rose “La Cuesta Encantada” – The Enchanted Hill. By 1947, Hearst and Morgan had created an estate of 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways.

The estate’s magnificent main house, “Casa Grande,” and three guest houses are of Mediterranean Revival style, while the imposing towers of Casa Grande were inspired by a Spanish cathedral. The blending of the architectural style with the surrounding land, and Hearst’s superb European and Mediterranean art collection, was so seamless that world-renowned architectural historian, Lord John Julius Norwich, was moved to say that “Hearst Castle is a palace in every sense of the word.”


We visited Hearst Castle on February 5, 2011, as part of our Coastal California road trip in celebration of Laura’s 40th Birthday. Above are video highlights from the Experience Tour, which provides an introduction to Hearst Castle showcasing Casa Grande.

Below is a photolog of our visit.  You can click on any thumbnail to expand it and then manually cycle through all the gallery’s images and captions using the arrow buttons.  Alternatively, you can click on the [show as slideshow] link below to initiate an automated slideshow of the entire gallery.

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