Hearst (grandfather of the notorious kidnapping victim-cum-criminal-cum-model citizen, Patty Hearst) was himself bigger than life, and his enterprises were fabulously lucrative, as woefully dys-imagined in the movie Citizen Kane. Not one to fritter away his fortune on profligacy (at least, not the usual kind), Hearst developed the family ranch overlooking the Pacific Ocean at San Simeon, California, into a mansion and estate beyond compare. Today it's a do-not-miss along California Highway 1.
The Castle was a 28-year collaboration between Hearst, with his money and acquisitive taste, and the brilliant architect Julia Morgan. Morgan, like Mary Jane Colter, was a standout in a field dominated by men, and like Colter, her considerable accomplishments beyond the the work for which she was best known during her lifetime (the Castle), was largely uncelebrated until recent years. Also like Colter, it seems she never had budget constraints. Nor limitations on the talent and skills she could recruit to import, build or restore, install, replicate, and maintain the exquisite treasures, baubles, fancies, and architectural elements in their entireties, mostly of the Mediterranean world and from all eras, ancient to 1930's and 40's contemporary.
|A turkey vulture gazes across the Hearst acreage to the "Castle" at the top of a 1,600 foot hill, San Simeon, California|
Next up was the Billiard Room, lined with this huge 15th century French tapestry hunting scene to suggest, I suppose, that the room is meant for the recreation of very well-dressed people.
The final interior room of our tour was the movie theater in which Hearst and guests, and, apparently also the staff, enjoyed movies produced at Cosmopolitan Productions, owned by none other than WR, of course. (Most of the movies were not memorable, but were certainly money-makers at the time.) I've not been able to establish seating capacity, but it was at least 50. In the cavernous room too dark for my photo purposes, this shot of a "simple" life-sized wall sconce well represents the general idea.
|Detail, ironwork screen on one of the guest houses created by Californian Edward Trinkkeller|
The iconic ultimate outdoor attraction at Hearst Castle is the 345,000 gallon Neptune Pool with its complex period architectural and decorative references and sky-mirroring color.
Hearst collected live exotica as well:
Some species, like the poor polar bears and elephant, lived mostly in the confines of a zoo. Others, like these Grey's zebras, progeny of the originals, were free to graze with the beef cattle on what is now the Hearst Corporation Ranch.
By the time we had to go on our way the fog had cleared, revealing views all the way to the Pacific Ocean, providing a taste of what it was that Hearst so loved about this spot.
This report barely touches the surface of La Cuesta Encantada's epic. The researching and writing of it has brought home of how little I was able to absorb, even on this visit as a more worldly person than on previous encounters. It would be an enormous indulgence to go back again too soon, though. But indulgence is the name of this game, is it not?