Friday, February 19, 2010

William Hearst Castle

A fog horn awoke me this morning, for a minute I thought we were back in Canada where we heard that sound often. I do not expect the weather to be all that great this weekend what with rain coming in this afternoon. Yesterday we took one of the five tours offered at this castle and saw only a very small part of the grounds and estate. Unfortunately, because of the fog, our vision was somewhat  limited of the beautiful countryside surrounding what Hearst called his "Enchanted Hill". That is evident in this picture John took of the Casa Grande, or the main building.
The facade of the Casa Grande was inspired by the Santa Maria la Mayor cathedral in Rhonda Spain. William Hearst toured Europe extensively as a young boy and fell in love with the castles, art and culture which he saw there. His Dad, George Hearst, made his millions as a miner and with his fortunes bought up large portions of land in California. Out of all his land holdings his only son William loved the land which was situated on a crest of the Santa Lucia mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean. That is where he built his dream castle which became popularly known as San Simeon. He and his architect Julia Morgan collaborated for  27 years on its construction, starting in 1919. The estate eventually came to include the Casa Grande, three guest houses, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, gardens, tennis courts, even an exotic zoo. Below is a picture of the Neptune pool, which was created from various pieces of his vast art collection.
William Hearst received from his father the San Francisco Examiner and after that further enlarged his publishing empire by purchasing other newspapers and magazines. He then expanded into newsreel and movie productions, even forging an alliance with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for about eleven years. Consequently the guest list at his ranch in the 1920s and 1930s included a  fairly impressive group of people which included European royalty, journalists, aviators, politicians, Hollywood celebrities and athletes. Besides wining and dining them well, he also offered such activities as swimming,tennis and billiards. He even had a theater room to run movies. Below is his indoor Roman swimming pool of which every surface is a mosaic of hammered gold and delicate Venetian glass tiles.
One last picture here is of the Refectory, or dining room. It is decorated with vivid Italian racing banners, tapestries, and numerous silver pieces. I think this estate tops anything else we have seen on our travels!

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