By Ralph Hipp
Remember Orson Welles film classic, "Citizen Kane?" The film many critics think is the best movie of all time, following the triumphs and tragedies of John Foster Kane and his dream castle Xanadu, was actually lambasting the place you're seeing on today's blog page.. the grand castle of William Randolph Hearst. The media giant called his palaces "San Simeon," and exactly midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, you'll still find it, as we did, in all its glory. William Randolph Hearst inherited the property in 1919, and was always improving the Castle until his death in 1951.
Hearst (whose corporation still owns KMBC, Channel 9 in Kansas City and many other stations, newspapers and magazines) invited the stars of Hollywood and Washington to his estate for a huge meal and to spend the night. We found the hallways and bedrooms extremely dark and uninviting. He really considered Hearst Castle an art museum, as his wealth allowed him to continually build and re-build the Hearst Castle and add priceless collections of art to it, from around the world.
On any given night, you might have seen actors David Niven or Cary Grant.. or financiers and regulators like Joseph Kennedy and Bernard Baruch coming to dine with Hearst in his huge dining hall! It's not hard to see this hall was the inspiration for the dining hall at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies!
The Casa Grande features the castle's famous twin towers modeled after a church Hearst saw in Rondo, Spain. Hearst's genius engineer and designer was Julia Morgan, who worked on 750 architectural projects in San Francisco, and spent years planning and supervising San Simeon's construction in all phases. The hard part was hauling up all the building materials nearly ten miles to the top of the summit! That included the materials for the pool.. which was rebuilt three times before this beautiful Neptune outdoor pool became the final classic touch to the mansions.
I took this self-portrait at poolside, and could only imagine the famous people who jumped in and splashed around (well, probably not in this water..) while Mr. Hearst watched on and laughed!
It was so darn cold and windy the day we were there, it would have been a day to dive into Hearst's indoor pool. Budding young Hollywood actresses could borrow any size swimsuit and jump off that top diving platform into the 10 foot deep water.
But even in the cold Central California Coast weather, this view down to Hearst Beach was breathtaking, as we bid our farewell!
(Learn more about San Simeon at www.hearstcastle.com)