Hearst Castle

Tami standing in front of the Neptune Pool. It was created over an eleven year period, beginning in 1924. The 104-foot long pool is a creation that appears to be perfect in all respects, from its marble floor and graceful colonnades to the lovely Greco-Roman temple that stands at one side. Hearst's guests must have loved swimming here - and the temptation for us to take a quick dive was tremendous.

Hearst Castle's 123 acres of gardens, terraces, 2 pools and 3 guest houses provide a dramatic setting for the magnificent 130-room Hispano-Moresque mansion Hearst called La Casa Grande. Within the buildings on the hilltop are an endless variety of rooms and art objects: stately rooms whose walls and ceilings were once part of European palaces; paintings and tapestries of an age and quality that would grace the walls of any famous museum; antique furniture, Grecian urns, statues, collections of silverware, firearms, medieval armor - each worth a king's ransom. It would take, not weeks, but months, perhaps even years, to familiarize oneself with the treasures to be seen there. Mitchel did find some statues that he was fond of, however.

This photo shows the magnificent view from Hearst Castle of the Pacific Ocean and San Simeon Bay. and you can see some of the gardens in the foreground. Hearst Castle is five miles inland from the ocean, and 1,600 feet above San Simeon Bay. It seems like you can see forever, though!

Casa Grande is Spanish for "Grand House". This impressive mansion stands 137 feet tall and features 130 rooms. With its perch on a hilltop in the Santa Lucia mountains, there is absolutely no question as to why Hearst selected this location. Today, Hearst Castle is a State Historical Monument, and several tours are given throughout the day. Tour 1 gives basic coverage of the "Enchanted Hill", and is recommended for first-time visitors (it's the one that we took). There are three others, however, plus a candlelight tour, and we hope to take them all someday.

The Assembly Room, where guests would customarily assemble for a social hour prior to dinner, was the first room to be built in the main house. It was started in 1922, and is the largest room in La Casa Grande. The hand-chiseled walnut ceiling is from an Italian Palace. The room is filled with magnificent Flemish tapestries, one of which was designed by Peter Paul Reubens and one by Guilio Romano. Wood seats, originally from Spanish and Italian churches, line the Assembly Room. They were not for use so much as for decoration.

The Refectory served as the dining hall. This middle age cathedral-like room features the "Daniel" tapestry and a 27 foot high French gothic fireplace. The hall contains a great display of antique French and Spanish silver, including Spanish colonial silver candlesticks on the long tables. The Medieval setting is enhanced by the massive 15th Century French Gothic fireplace and the Gothic tapestries. The flags hanging along the sides of the room - the subject of this photo - add a wonderful splash of color to the room.

The Billiard Room, or Game Room, completed in 1934, features two billiard tables and a sixteenth century French tapestry. It's easy to look at the room and imagine the mega-stars of the past such as Cary Grant, Clark Gable, and Carole Lombard enjoying a Cuban cigar and a snifter of brandy with their host after dinner.

During the tour, we were ushered into Hearst's private theater for an old film clip about the castle. It was ornately built, as you can see from one of the lights lining the walls, and was built with fifty seats for his guests. Here it is believed William Hearst showed first run movies such as "Gone with the Wind" to visitors to the Enchanted Hill.

The Roman pool, completely indoors, is colorfully decorated with mosaic blue and gold tiles. It concludes Tour 1, and is an impressive finale. There is a high diving platform, and you can only imagine William Randolph Hearst doing a cannonball for his guests.

After Hearst died and the family fortunes declined, the family gave Hearst Castle and its lands to the state. Today Hearst Castle is a State Historical Monument, preserved by the state Park Service and we can all get a glimpse of the opulent lifestyle of Hearst's time.

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