Tourists ‘heart’ Hearst estate
William randolph Hearst is quite a legend for many reasons. So it’s no surprise that a tour of his huge 165-room estate is bringing in the visitors.
THE coastline that parallels Route 1 in central California, the United States, is so breathtaking that you might be forgiven for missing the zebras on the opposite side of the road.
And that huge chateau perched far off on the hillside in San Simeon? Almost unnoticeable at highway speeds.
Both belong to the legacy of larger-thanlife newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, who chose this surprisingly unobtrusive spot along the Pacific Coast Highway to build his 165-room estate.
Now overseen by the state park system, the site known as the Hearst Castle is worth a side trip if you’re driving between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
An array of tours offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of the rich and famous that, while not quick or cheap, is not something you’ll soon forget.
The Mediterranean Revival-style property designed by architect Julia Morgan occupies land in San Simeon that had been in Hearst’s family for decades.
The original acreage had few amenities, though, and the publisher reportedly told Morgan in 1919: “We are tired of camping out in the open at the ranch in San Simeon and I would like to build a little something.”
That “little something” was under construction for the next 28 years, finally completed in 1947.
The estate includes indoor and outdoor pools, lush landscaping and a soaring 115room main house surrounded by three smaller guest homes.
Hearst called his palatial manor La Cuesta Encantada (“The Enchanted Hill”).
It also once boasted the world’s largest private zoo, holding exotic animals from polar bears to – you guessed it – zebras. The striped creatures roaming the family’s ranch along the coastal highway are descendants of the originals, though the zoo itself no longer exists.
Most tours focus on the central building known as Casa Grande (“Big House”), which looks more like a church because of its twin bell towers.
Flanked by towering palms, it’s filled with priceless art and artifacts, from centuries-old marble statues and exotic rugs to Tiffany lamps and antique ceilings.
The Grand Rooms tour shows off the main common areas.
In the huge assembly room, guests socialised beneath high walls covered by valuable tapestries and oil paintings; in the flagdraped dining room, they ate on fine dishes and silverware but seasoned their food with off-the-shelf ketchup and mustard bottles (lest you think the host was too formal).
A plush movie theatre – illuminated by ornately carved, voluptuous female figures holding light fixtures – plays an old news- reel of various guests at the estate, including Charlie Chaplin on the tennis court.
The star of the Upstairs Suites tour is probably the sumptuous Doge’s Suite, inspired by the palace of the Venetian ruler.
A pair of well-appointed guest bedrooms boasts precious imported furnishings; the ornate door of one bathroom came from a sacristy in Europe.
The suite’s luxurious sitting area has walls draped in blue fabric and a ceiling www.hearstcastle.org > Located about 235 miles (378km) from Los angeles and 245 miles (395km) from San Francisco. > tours daily except thanksgiving, christmas and New year’s day. reservations strongly suggested, bookable online up to 56 days in advance. tickets start at uS$25 (rm80) for adults and uS$12 (rm39) for children, with discounts for multiple tours on the same day. the three basic tours are about 40 minutes each; speciality tours are longer and more expensive.
Old-world charm: the exterior of Hearst castle, the 165-room estate of newspaper publisher William randolph Hearst, in San Simeon, california, the united States.
Visitors touring the luxurious office. (inset) Old newspapers outside the office.
another lighting fixture in the castle.