When travelers piece together the past of a destination, they can discover what it was, who was there, and how it’s evolved. Seeing the beautiful homes and gardens of prominent figures is a popular way to dig up that history—and the homes have their own story to tell. Here is a past and present look at one of four featured houses, and the full article can be read here.
The first 40,000 acres of the Hearst Castle ranchland property was acquired by George Hearst in 1865, a purchase that laid the foundation for the exquisite hilltop estate on the central California coast. George’s son, William Randolph Hearst, inherited the ranch in 1919, expanded its grounds another 250,000 acres, and built a retreat called La Cuesta Encantada—Spanish for “The Enchanted Hill”—with the help of architect Julia Morgan.
“Hearst and Morgan originally discussed it as being a modest country home built on the site where his parents took him camping as a child, but plans rapidly changed to create a sumptuous, extraordinary estate with breathtaking gardens and architecture, and an impressive art collection,” says Marketing and Communications Director Jim Allen.
The estate, soaring 1,600 feet over the Pacific coastline and surrounded by the Santa Lucia Mountains, has 165 rooms; many acres of lush gardens; and terraces, pools, and walkways. Parts of the house were built specifically to showcase Hearst’s iconic art collection—and the home was quite the gathering place.
La Cuesta Encantada was in a remote locale, though, and as Hearst’s health declined, he had to vacate the unfinished home.
“Hearst was a media genius, and his power and vision allowed him to pursue one of the most ambitious architectural endeavors in American history, the result of which can be seen in the magnificent grounds and structures of Hearst Castle today,” Allen says.
Located in a California state park, the mansion and grounds are a state historic monument that’s open to the public for guided tours.
“In its heyday, only the privileged few could experience the grandeur of Hearst Castle, but today we welcome the public to see, experience, and learn about this fabulous showplace and its extraordinary history,” Allen says. “Mr. Hearst wanted the estate to be a museum of the finest things he could acquire, and for it to become open to the public after his death as a tribute to his mother, Phoebe, who inspired his interests.”
Tours of the castle are offered year-round, and visitors can see Hearst’s art collections and antique furniture—more than 20,000 original items, from classical antiquity to Art Deco. One of the most unique pieces is the “Venus Italica,” carved by Antonio Canova in 1802. Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother purchased the sculpture, sold it to an English collector, and later, Hearst grabbed it up at an auction in 1930.
The attraction offers free, ample motorcoach parking, and guests can be dropped off at the visitor center entrance, where they’ll find food services, a large-screen theater, exhibits, and a gift shop. Allen suggests planning about three hours for a visit to Hearst Castle.
For more information, contact Allen.
Top photo: Hearst Castle
Photo by Hearst Castle - California State Parks - All rights reserved
Support for Courier articles provided by:
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
The Huntington Library, Art Museum & Botanical Gardens