Question: What is the second most popular tourist attraction in California?
Hearst Castle Website
When William Randolph Hearst died in 1951, his will left his beloved "ranch" in San Simeon to the State of California, who opened it to the public a few years later. Today, they run four different tours of sections of the property, with the main house tour running 50 people up there every 10 minutes from 8 AM to 5 PM all year long. At $25 a head!
There is no question it is one of the wonders of our modern era. There is probably no way to estimate the value of the home, land and the contents today. Hearst spared no expense in building this mansion and spent his entire life collecting European art to fill it--from the 15th century Italian ceilings and 14th century stone doorways disassembled and shipped by boat to this remote (at the time, 1920s) to the innumerable Medieval religious paintings, Greek and Roman and Egyptian sculptures and 16th century furniture. On one floor, all the lampshades are 800-year-old lambskin vellum with monk-scribed Gregorian chant music. In the sitting room for guest entertaining (about 100' x 30') the walls are lined with choir seats from European cathedrals. Hearst brought in and planted over 70,000 trees on the property, along with a zoo that had zebras (still grazing today), polar bears and grizzly bears, giraffes and dozens of kinds of antelope.
Of course, he could afford it. He had taken the wealth he inherited from his father and built a privately-owned commercial empire that included hundreds of newspapers, magazines, radio stations, movie studios; a ranch that covered over 250,000 acres; employed 30,000 people.
On top of that, he was a huge entertainer who invited the notables of his day to be guests at the ranch. His guests ranged from actors like Cary Grant, Erol Flynn, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Charlie Chaplin and David Niven to statesmen and notables like Calvin Coolidge, David Ben Gurion, Douglas MacArthur, Charles Lindberg and Winston Churchill. Anyway, it is an amazing place with an amazing history and touring it is a bit like visiting the Louvre and a king's palace all rolled into one.
Visit the site above to see good pictures and read more about it, but put it on your bucket list of things to do if you haven't already visited.
|A bedroom in one of the three guest cottages adjoining the main house|
|The front entrance and facade of the main house|
|A view looking up to the main house tower across some of the elaborate grounds|
|The Roman pool, lined with a million pieces of Murano glass|