The Hearst Castle remains a symbol of the extravagent wealth that peaked in the United States during the 1920s. This lavish estate was the ultimate achievement of architect, Julia Morgan. Commissioned by media tycoon—newspaper magnate, film producer, art collector—William Randolph Hearst, this ostentatious country home was constructed in the hills above the coastal town of San Simeon, California. The ranch was created as his country residence, as a showcase for his art collection, and as a venue to host his guests: royalty, movie stars and the high-society elite.
The opulence of his estate was juxtaposed against Hearst’s looming financial troubles by the late 1930s. While the country was plagued by the affects of the Great Depression, and then World War II, Hearst was under continued emotional and financial stress. Still, construction continued for 28 years—though periodically interrupted—with ongoing expansion to increase the scale until W.R. Hearst’s health began to fail, preventing him from returning after his departure in 1947.
The collaborative efforts of Hearst and Morgan culminated in a Spanish Revival-Moorish style masterpiece. The result is an eclectic blend inspired by various historical Spanish periods, which were influenced by its Roman and Moorish roots. Spanish-inspired design also characterizes the heritage of California, and the style is reflective of the era in which the ranch was conceived.
Various periods are represented throughout the grounds. Ornate Moorish influences found in Spanish Colonial design inspire the exterior architecture of the main house, Casa Grande. Reminiscent of a Moorish palace combined with a Spanish cathedral, its entrance is flanked by two bell towers containing large tanks to hold water brought down from the mountain springs.
Nestled on the hillside below Casa Grande are three casitas. Casa del Mar (House A) faces the ocean; Casa del Sol (House C) faces West; and Casa del Monte (House B) faces the mountains. Each of these 3 guest houses incorporate Moorish features in columns, carvings, and colorful tile work, as well as Spanish Mission elements found in arched openings, ironwork, and barrel-tile roofs.
Spanish Gothic interior architecture composes the volume inside the Casa Grande. Neo-Classical elements are displayed throughout the grounds in the Egyptian- and Roman-inspired structures and statuary adorning the gardens and terraces, stairways and Roman bath-style pools. The outdoor Neptune Pool is surrounded by Greco-Roman monument-like structures and archades and intricate tile mosaics.
- Built 1919-1947 (use and entertaining began in 1924)
- Mediterranean Spanish Colonial Revival, Spanish Mission, Neo-Classical, Gothic
- Architect: Julia Morgan
- 90,000 square feet with 165 room spread on 250,000 acres
Since 1958, when Hearst Castle opened to the public as a State Monument, the estate is now maintained as a museum, housing an extensive collection of Spanish, Italian and French art and antiquities. Various tours are available daily. This is an ideal stop that I highly recommend while taking a road trip along the California Pacific Coast Highway 1. Get transported to a bygone era—the glitz and glamour of the original Hollywood. Enjoy!