In the early 1960’s, when my husband and I were newly married . . .
. . . we drove leisurely up spectacular Highway 1 to visit Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California.
Fifty-seven years later, to celebrate our anniversary and my birthday, we decided to return.
A fog bank greeted us as we approached the entry to Hearst Castle.
While it gave El Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Hill) a magical aura, it played havoc with my hair.
And it didn’t get better as the day progressed.
I feel if one is visiting a castle, one should dress for the occasion.
In fact, this stylish top would look great in a castle, a bistro or a diner.
I hope that if Hearst and Marion Davies had been in residence they would have approved of my stylish, yet comfortable outfit.
This magical place had its beginning when George Hearst, William’s father, made his money from gold, silver and copper mines. He purchased more than 66,000 acres of land adjacent to San Simeon Bay. The family enjoyed spending time at what they called, “the ranch”. They would travel by horseback, climb up to the top of the hill and camp in tents. Hearst eventually inherited all of this land and later acquired many thousands of additional acres.
William Randolph Hearst eventually became one of the countries richest and most controversial newspapermen, owning nearly 30 newspapers which, for a period of time, earned him $50,000 a day.
Because of his many trips to Europe and education in the arts, he decided he was tired of living in tents and wanted to “build something a little different than other people were doing in California.” He hired a woman architect, a friend of his mother’s, Julia Morgan. And so it began, eventually growing to well over one hundred rooms and three “cottages.”
Throughout his life, Hearst dreamed of building a dwelling similar to those he had seen on his European tour as a boy. Hearst Castle was to become the realization of this dream as he and architect Julia Morgan collaborated for 28 years to construct a castle worthy of those he saw in Europe. While the Castle was never completely finished, it stands as the remarkable achievement of one man’s dream.
In addition to his brilliant business endeavors, Mr.Hearst amassed a vast and impressive art collection that included American and European Old Master paintings, sculptures, tapestries, oriental rugs, Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities, silver, furniture and historic ceilings.
Hearst, with his millions, also became a film producer and involved with the actress, Marion Davies.
Davies’ career as a film comedian was flourishing when she and Hearst began a romantic relationship in the 1920’s that would last until his death in 1951. He also managed her career and financed many of her features while promoting her heavily through his newspapers and Hearst Newsreels.
Unfortunately for Davies, she is mostly remembered today as Hearst’s mistress and the hostess of many lavish events for the Hollywood elite.
This relationship brought many Hollywood stars to the castle. In those days they had to arrive by boat or plane. There was no Highway 1 or Highway 101.
And the parties went on and on and on…
While visiting, George Bernard Shaw is supposed to have told Hearst that his castle was “what heaven would be like if God had your money.”
Hearst was always overspending and nearly went broke. He had amassed around 87 million dollars in debt in creating his Castle that had 56 bedrooms, 621 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theatre, airfield and the worlds largest private zoo!
The bank was going to foreclose on Hearst Castle, but Marion sold her jewelry, liquidated stocks and gave him a million dollars so he could keep the ranch. She even convinced a friend to give him another million dollars.
When Hearst died, he left his estate to her as a sign of his love and gratitude for bailing him out. In a reciprocal act of love, Marion sold her entire inheritance back to the Hearst family for $1.
She once said, “God I’d give everything I have to marry that silly old man. Not for the money and security-he’s given me more than I’ll ever need. Not because he’s such cozy company, either. Most times he starts jawing, he bores me stiff. And certainly not because he’s so wonderful behind the barn. No, you know what he gives me? Sugar! He gives me the feeling I’m worth something to him — he snores, and he can be petty, and has sons about as old as me. But he’s kind and he’s good to me and I’ll never walk out on him.”
It really is a love story.