Friday, August 17 , 2018, 10:55 pm | Fair 69º


Judy Crowell: Hearst Castle — A Fine Fit for a Media Tycoon

William Randolph Hearst's idea of building 'a little something' turned into a grandiose, must-see attraction in San Simeon

In 1919, William Randolph Hearst, at age 56, inherited 250,000 acres of sweeping wilderness halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, located in San Simeon and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Having spent several years camping out in opulent dining and sleeping tents on the hill known first as “The Enchanted Hill” and later as “Camp Hill,” Hearst — weary of roughing it — decided it was time to “build a little something.”

Famed San Francisco architect Julia Morgan shared his vision and together they created a fantasy world consisting of 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, an airfield, tennis courts, a movie theater and the world’s largest private zoo.

When asked if he had built a chapel, Hearst replied, “No. I don’t have one of those. You can sit in any of my rooms, look out the window and pray and God will hear you very well.”

Following frequent buying trips to Europe, truckload after truckload of antiques, Spanish tiles, art, even entire ceilings would wind their way up the enchanted hill north of San Luis Obispo. Much has been written, including the acclaimed movie Citizen Kane, about the heydays of the 1930s and the legendary visits of the never-ending A-list personalities.

While touring the magnificent rooms, I imagined receiving one of the coveted invitations for a dinner party, a chess game or a tennis match with the likes of Joseph Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Cary Grant, Charles Lindbergh, Clark Gable, Amelia Earhart, Charlie Chaplin or Joan Crawford — just a few of the illustrious guests hosted by Hearst and his mistress, Marion Davies. His wife, Millicent, preferred life in New York City.

George Bernard Shaw, upon visiting, was moved to say, “God would do this with His house if He had Mr. Hearst’s money.”

With 161 phones in the castle, all connected to the head office, the most frequently asked question was, “Where am I?” Early morning arrival at the castle will allow you to take in as many as three tours, and if you’re lucky, one of the evening tours where docents are in period dress from the boisterous 1930s.

Donated in 1957 by Hearst Corp. to the State of California, this must-see showplace will take your breath away.

For reservations and more information, call 800.444.4445 and live vicariously for at least one day as a newspaper tycoon and a way-over-the-top bon vivant.

Noozhawk contributing writer Judy Crowell is an author, freelance travel writer and part-time Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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