Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument Things to Do Tips by atufft Top 5 Page for this destination
Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument Things to Do: 95 reviews and 351 photos
Hearst Castle Swimming Pool Diving Platform
Northeast of Casa Grande is a building that includes a swimming pool and roof top tennis court. The tennis courts are concrete with lighting, but no audience seats. Several tennis stars of Heart's day played the court on occasion. Below, Hearst had an indoor swimming pool built with a uniform 10 foot depth. Hearst wanted the pool filled with sea water, but when this damaged the pool, the entire pool had to be reconstructed. Hearst himself apparently enjoyed swimming laps, but neither guests nor even castle employees like using the pool. The tile work and statues are certainly worth a gaze though, if nothing else. This is a fully heated pool with ladders, diving board, and diving platform.
View from Bus of the Coast and Pier
Hearst's parents bought a 40,000 acre (160 km²) ranch in 1865, but by in 1919 when he had inherited it, it had grown to 250,000 acres (1000 km²). Some acreage had been purchased for as little as 70 cents per acre, yet during the Great Depression, Hearst sold acreage to retain his wealth.
Besides camping and horseback riding on the huge estate, Hearst founded a private zoo known as the Hearst Garden of Comparative Zoology. Fifty specieis of herbivores roamed the landscape, including American Bison, Rocky Mountain elk, European white fallow deer, several species of African and Asian antelope, zebras, both Bactrian (two-humped) and dromedary (one-humped) camels, sambar deer from India, red deer from Europe, axis deer from Asia, llamas, kangaroos, ostriches, emus, Barbary sheep, Alaskan big horned sheep, musk oxen, and yaks. As many as four giraffes were kept in a small pen located next to the road. Penned in state of the art cages designed for their needs were carnivores, and other animals not allowed to roam wild, including black bears, grizzly bears, sun bears, lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cougars, chimpanzees, orangutans, monkeys, macaws, kinkajous, coati mundis, swans, storks, a tapir, and an elephant. Diet and exercise were carefully controlled and a veterinarian was on the staff during the 1930s; however, by 1937 financial constraints required that Hearst abandon the zoo program, and eventually animals were donated to the zoos in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Hearst was an early advocate of animal rights. Tour guides told us that zebras can still be seen on parts of the ranch, but we didn't see any.
Another feature of the larger estate was the pier built by Hearst's parents in the 19th century. This deep water port was important for unloading many crates of artwork, as well as construction materials, animals, and full sized trees imported to fill out the landscape.
Marble Stature in North Esplanade Garden
The North Terrace Entrance had been constructed and reconstructed due to the changing needs of the arrival entrance to the castle proper. Originally, formality ruled but apparently that became inconvenient later. However, the Esplanade of tile and mature plants that provided the walk between the guest houses and Casa Grande was an uninterrupted effort of Julia Morgan. The esplanade includes several notable statues, and the well tended gardens are quite beautiful. Casa del Monte (B House) is a separate guest quarter house from Casa Grande, and includes some great views of the property as well as extraordinary interior design and artwork. As it's name suggests, it views northeast toward the Santa Lucia Mountains.
Ceiling Detail in North Wing Room at Casa Grande
The guest rooms in the north wing were reportedly the last that architect Julia Morgan saw fully finished and decorated. These rooms include wonderful ceilings and art, but they also have an art deco style about them. There's more open space and modern feeling, and the result is actually a less cramped and a better display of the individual paintings, sculptures, rugs, and antiques. Here also is a more confident native California worker reproductions of ceilings and other woodwork, suggesting that over time the talent, particularly from a few craftsmen living in Berkeley, could rival the best of 16th and 17th century Europe.
Chinese Carpet and 17th Century Spanish Painting
There are a number of sitting rooms in this wing which have outstanding ceiling woodwork, mantles which are partly pieced from original fragments, and there are pieces collected from Asia, apparently a rather late appreciation developed by Hearst. I noticed some rearrangement of furniture and art pieces from the rooms as shown in the Hearst Castle Pictorial Tour Guide.
Hospitality Center and Permit Parking Lot
A call at 8am from our hotel in Morro Bay provided the earliest tour at 12:20PM the same day during spring off-season, so this place is busy. This provided the advantage of a walk around the rock at this pleasant fishing villiage where we stayed and lunch at the small town of Cambria during the 30 minute drive to San Simeon. I saw many purchasing tickets at the window, angry that they would have to wait around for hours before their tour. The town of San Simeon, a few minutes south on Highway 1, is mainly a collection of corporate logo hotels and restaurants devoted to tourists, and is not, in my humble opinion, the best place to stay for a few days. Hearst Castle is by far the biggest attraction in the area, and a lonely one at that. Camping and RV parking is available in the area at reasonable rates. Parking is free, but remember where you left your car as the lot is not marked by section signs. Also, parking is pretty exposed except for cyprus trees that line the lots. We were able to find a little shade for our car, so that the dog would not bake, but then we visited in a cooler month. Spring and Fall are probably the best times to visit, with May and June being foggy, January through March windy and rainy, and August a zoo. No maps or layouts of the castle are provided or sold to tourists, and so count your steps carefully as the guide confuses your group through the maze of floors and rooms. There is however, ONE $60- book in the bookstore there that has a crude layout of Julia Morgan's masterpiece buildings at this Hearst Mansion. Many families bring their children, but in general, Hearst Castle always was and remains an adult attraction because of the sophistication of the art and architecture. Active children will love climbing the many hundreds steps, but those carrying an infant or young child certainly will not. There are few if any extra provisions for tired senior citizens or the disabled.
Address: 750 Hearst Castle Road, San Simeon, California
Directions: From LA: Hwy 101 North to San Luis Obispo, then take Hwy 1 North to San Simeon. From San Francisco: Hwy 101 south to Monterey, and Hwy 1 south to San Simeon, OR Hwy 101 South to Paso Robles and then Hwy 46 west, and Hwy 1 north to San Simeon.
Other Contact: http://www.hearstcastle.org/tour
Phone: (800) 444-4445
North Wing Room View of Mountains at Casa Grande
In the end, there were actually many places in Hearst Castle that we didn't have time to see. I would like to return simply for Tour 1, but Tours 4 & 5 also appear quite interesting to me now that I appreciate what Hearst and Morgan tried to do. Anyway here's the last images for Tour 3, except for the swimming pool and tennis courts, which you've already seen. One of the late developments in Julia Morgans list of "must haves" were doors and windows that didn't transfer the cold and wind so much. Brass lining, and believe it or not, dual pane windows, were a solution along the northwing. One thing Morgan could never really fix were the drafty fireplaces. Since Hearst made so many changes in his plans, adding new fireplaces and taking the balance out of the flue design Morgan had originally planned, fireplaces weren't very good. But, modern heating systems and electricity are in this house--the first in San Simeon to have it. In fact, the Hearst Ranch had it's own, albeit irregular, power generation at a small hydroelectric dam on the property.
Storybook Arches and Antique Chest
Late in life Hearst had planned a new room to replace his 3rd story Gothic Suite, but he became too ill to ever use it. However, the charm here is in the medieval English/French storybook scenes painted by local artists on the gothic style arches beams. The ceiling between the beams is of 16th century Spanish origin. In this part of the Casa Grande, there were art pieces from many places, mostly purchased in auction lots from Spanish monestaries and convents, but also from the same in places like Peru.
16th Century Spanish Peaked Ceiling
The wooden peaked ceiling is a natural pine wood from 16th century Spain. Bear in mind that Julia Morgan had to design the size of the room around the ceiling which Hearst had bought at auction, but note the archway and peaked ceiling combination which is really outstanding architectural design, allowing more light and accentuating the curved feature of the ceiling. The Mantle is carved oak and stone of unknown origin. The portraits continue with a great example here of a lady from 1597--Flemish origin.
17th Century German Painting in Bedroom
If you are getting weary of viewing all these images and reading this text, imagine how our feet felt toward the last stretch of Tour 3. And, yet the wonders kept on coming. I was particularly taken by the ceiling of one room. Here, a single 16th century Gothic style panel was duplicated to make an entire ceiling, along with the false open beam look.
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