The Hearst Castle

Yesterday’s post about Nepenthe of Big Sur took us south from Monterey, down the Central Coast of California.  Today’s post takes us even farther down the Central Coast.  The destination for today’s post is San Simeon, California and the Hearst Castle.  Built in the thirties and forties by newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, this palatial estate is a wonder to behold.

Originally known as “Camp Hill,” its wilderness offered a place for family members and friends to “rough it” on camping trips. Despite elaborate arrangements with separate sleeping and dining tents, Hearst envisioned more comfortable accommodations. His simple instructions to famed San Francisco architect Julia Morgan in 1919: “Miss Morgan, we are tired of camping out in the open at the ranch in San Simeon and I would like to build a little something.”

Hearst liked to entertain at San Simeon.  The list of guest at San Simeon are a who’s who of the notables of the day.  Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, the Marx Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, James Stewart, Bob Hope, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill were all among Hearst’s A-list guests.  While guests were expected to attend the formal dinners each evening, they were normally left to their own devices during the day.

The Neptune Pool, pictured below, was featured in the Disney animated classic, Fantasia.  It was used as the inspiration for the setting of the Dance of the Hours episode, music by Ponchielli.  This is the episode with the dancing hippo, ostriches and crocodiles.  Hearst had the pool rebuilt three times, just to get it the way he wanted it.

No discussion touching upon the life of William Randolph Hearst would be complete, without at least touching upon his most famous of unauthorized biographers.  That of course would be Orson Welles and his movie masterpiece, Citizen Kane.  The Hearst Castle was the inspiration for the “Xanadu” mansion featured in the movie.  The Hearst Castle was never used as a location for the film.  In fact, even though Citizen Kane opened to universal critical acclaim, it was not a box office success.  Hearst found his depiction in the movie less than flattering and actively suppressed the film.

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