The Castle of Dreams

By Danielle Yuthas

The Hearst publishing empire all began when William Randolph Hearst pleaded with his father to let him take over the San Francisco Examiner, which his father acquired as payment for a gambling debt. Next he purchased the New York Journal and over the next decade grew to own more than two dozen newspapers nationwide.  His was also one of the first print media companies to enter broadcasting and he was a pioneer in television broadcast.

Hearst inherited the 250,000 acres of ranchland where he camped in his childhood from his mother upon her death in 1919. Once he tired of camping, he decided to “build a little something.” The “little something” soon grew into “Casa Grande” and three guest housesdesigned by renowned San Francisco architect Julia Morgan. The estate is of the Mediterranean Revival style and filled with European art based on his love for Europe he discovered from his travels at a very young age.

Hearst had a wife, Millicent Hearst and five children, as well as a mistress, the accomplished actress Marion Davies whom he partnered with in their company, Cosmopolitan Productions. The starlet threw lavish parties to entertain the who’s who of Hollywood at Hearst Castle and a Santa Monica beach home Hearst built for her.

Guests could fly in directly to the Hearst Castle airport for weekend getaways and parties. Often the setting of entertainment was the outdoor 345,000-gallon Neptune pool or the indoor 1,665 square footpool designed to be reminiscent of the eponymous baths, the Roman pool. Other times it was movie premiers in the on-site theater or games in the Billiard Room followed by dinners with copious amounts of wine from the 2-room wine cellar in the basement. This was even during prohibition when the manufacture, sale or transportation of liquor was illegal, it did not impede Hearst serving to his guests. In the height of his indulgence, Hearst entertained his guests with a tour of his zoo, the largest private zoo in the world.

This fantasy land of 1920s glam was the playground of the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo and Clark Gable, Calvin Coolidge, Harpo Marx, Howard Hughes, Charles Lindbergh and George Bernard Shaw. The Hearst Castle in San Simeon Valley California was Hearst’s an ongoing project throughout his lifetime. The fact that it was never completed lends itself to the daydreams of today’s tourists, to the site now known as Hearst Castle San Simeon State Historical Monument, who imagine what it was in its day and what could have been.

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