We toured the famous Hearst Castle and we have to say it is amazing. Neither words or pictures do justice to the magnificence that is Hearst Castle. The story behind the Castle is just as compelling. William Randolph Hearst, grandfather of Patty Hearst, built "La Cuesta Encantada" or Enchanted Hill better known as Hearst Castle on the old Camp Hill site. Camp Hill is where the Hearst family when William was a boy used to camp. William's father George bought the land after a very interesting journey to become a rich man.
George Hearst left Missouri in 1850 to seek his fortune in the California gold rush. For almost 10 years he was a decent prospector but not the very rich one he would become. Then he heard about the mining near Virginia City Nevada. He bought into what would eventually become the Comstock Lode, a huge amount of silver. George figures into the story because the silver was in the ore and not readily discernible as silver. The Indians had a name for George, roughly one who the land speaks to, and George said the rocks were speaking to him. So he loaded 38 tons of ore on mules and headed almost 300 miles to San Francisco over the Sierras in winter to have it smelted. Turns out it was very rich in silver and he made a small fortune on that trip alone. This started the silver rush in the area.
George used the money he made from mining to buy a lot of land along the central California coast. It was near the small town of San Simeon that they would trek up to the hill and camp, thereby the name Camp Hill. It was near this spot that his son William Randolph built his Castle. Here is Hearst Castle from the Visitor's Center.
There is so much to see we decided to break our visit into a few blog entries. This one deals with the Grand Rooms Tour, or La Casa Grande, the Big House. Here we are outside waiting for the tour to begin at the front door.
A number of themes will be prevalent throughout the tour, the first one deals with Mary the Mother of God and Jesus her child, aka Madonna and Child. Since this was a Mediterranean style house and since Madonna artwork was huge at that time she is everywhere. Here is a carving above the front door.
Not a bad view waiting for the tour to begin is it?
We didn't enter through the front door because this tile floor is extremely old.
Here is the Assembly Room where guests would mingle prior to the evening dinner.
Another theme throughout the house is the incredible ceilings. Here is the ceiling in the Assembly Room.
Yet another theme is the use of choir chairs from old churches used as paneling. Here are the choir chairs in the Assembly Room.
William only joined the group in the Assembly Room when it was time for dining. He would leave his office area on an upper floor and take the elevator to the ground floor and enter the Assembly Room via a secret door surprising his guests. From the Assembly Room he would lead them in to the Dining Room, or what they called the Refectory.
A closeup of the table and the tapestry on the wall.
Choir chairs were also used as paneling in the Refectory.
The Refectory ceiling.
A Madonna in the Refectory.
Then it was off to the Morning Room.
Then to the Billiards Room.
Note the ceiling and the tile. These ceilings have darkened over time and some are being restored as we write this. With a cotton ball and a cleaning solution a conservationist has a full time job in just one of the rooms for the next few years.
Then it was off to the largest room in Hearst Castle, surprisingly it was the movie theater.
We hope you enjoyed the tour as much as we did. If you ever get the chance to visit Hearst Castle we highly recommend it.
Next we will detail he Upstairs Suites Tour taking you to places that guests of William Randolph Hearst never saw.
Till next time,
Bob and Jo