Heading into our weekend exhale with a final stop at Hearst Castle

Earlier this week I shared bits and pieces of biographical color to give a sense of the powerful and influential newspaper and publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst.

Hearst Publishing-imp

As much as I’m in awe of the Castle he called his “ranch home,” I’m much more interested in the people than I am the building. I am currently reading an excellent Hearst biography, “The Chief,” written by David Nasaw and I have another sitting here waiting for me that will delve into the fascinating life of Hearst’s architect, Julia Morgan.

I’ll add a few links at the end of this post for anyone interested in reading more, but for now I’ll just give a little more information to make the photos more relevant.

What are these menagerie cages?


In his day, Hearst had one of the largest private zoos and game preserves in the world. Animals listed in the literature include bison, musk oxen, elk, antelope, giraffes and even camels, all encouraged to roam freely over the ranch lands. The grottos held polar and grizzly bears, lions, tigers, leopards and chimpanzees and other exotics. I came across the mention of an elephant named Marianne.

The field animals were plentiful and gracefully dotted the beautiful hills. The deer, sheep, and zebra are still plentiful and very accustomed to people standing nearby with cameras flashing wildly.

Hearst was proud of his animals and carefully controlled their exercise and  diet with oversight from a staff veterinarian. In 1937 Hearst experienced great financial strain and was forced to cut expenses. The animals were donated to public zoos or sold. It took more than fifteen years to complete the dispersal and when the State of California was given Hearst Castle seven years after Hearst’s death in 1951, Rocky Mountain elk, tahr goats, llamas, white fallow deer, zebras, sambar deer and Barbary sheep still roamed free.

All that beautiful undeveloped land! The Hearst Corporation donated the Castle to the State of California in 1957, but retained the surrounding property and continue to operate as a cattle ranch, just as William’s father George operated when he made the land purchase in 1865.

Referred to as the Piedra Blanca Rancho at San Simeon, the land extends from the inland mountains down to the ocean, with 18 miles of gorgeous coastline.  The 128-square mile property is “home” to more than 1,000 plant and animal species and is an abundant ecosystem.

San Simeon Ranch is preserved thanks to conservation commitment from the Hearst Corporation. This topic made for some interesting reading.  In 2005 the Hearst Corporation partnered with The American Land Conservancy, The California Rangeland Trust and the State of California to preserve the land and protect the scenic coastline, and some vocal opponent organizations fought back for either even stricter restrictions or on the other side, greater pubic access, but I’m just glad that the land will not be used for resorts and private acquisition that could easily change this gorgeous coastline forever.



I can’t conclude this tour without just a mention of the two swimming pools. They are worth the price of admission!

The outdoor Neptune pool is a beautiful feature, and experienced at least three major renovations during Hearst’s lifetime. He enjoyed this pool and was always making what he thought of as improvements.  It is currently drained and undergoing a painstaking tile repair. The original tiles are being preserved while repairing huge leaks. In a state experiencing mega-drought, it is an expedient time to make these repairs.

But the pool to top all pools–the Roman pool–sits underneath the two tennis courts, is lighted by skylights with gorgeous arched windows and tall standing marble lamps. The surfaces, covered with blue and gold mosaic tile give a stunning appearance. Gold leaf is fused with the glass. As our tour guide told us, at Hearst Castle, when it looks like gold–it is!

Well, I think that concludes my tour, except I do have a few more photos you might enjoy. There are a variety of tours available at the Castle, and because we’ve previously toured the “grander” more opulent rooms, we visited Hearst’s private quarters, bedrooms and some of the guest rooms, which I think you’ll see are more personally furnished and have a comfortable feel–well, my whole house could fit in some of these rooms, but they still felt inviting.


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Other photos are included in my previous post HEREand the Castle’s website is full of interesting reading and photos. I highly recommend it!

I hope you have a chance to visit Hearst Castle someday, but wherever you find yourself this weekend, do make the most of what you have available. There are so many interesting places to visit. We are headed out again tomorrow to spend some time just staring at the ocean. That’s still my favorite (and most effective) weekend exhale!

Will you be “de-stressifiying” this weekend?

Hearst, his California Castle and Citizen Kane–a too BIG story

It takes a very large personality to build a castle and refer to it as “the ranch.”


William Randolph Hearst was an imposing figure in the early 20th century, a polarizing newspaper tycoon who jumped into politics and mixed his  publishing fortunes with the business of early Hollywood and movies in a conscious and well-executed effort to greatly influence, if not control the public appetite, attitude and perspective on the political issues of the day. The term “yellow journalism” was coined to describe Hearst’s battles with Joseph Pulitzer as the two sensationalized the news to drive up circulation–the stuff of movies, don’t you think?

Although in later life Orson Welles denied his masterpiece Citizen Kane was completely inspired by Hearst’s life, stating it certainly wasn’t a biography, the fictional Kane with his Xanadu created a stir when the film was released, and living up to his reputation, Mr. Hearst did his best to bury the project, with threats, FBI investigations and grand-scale intimidation pitting the 76-year old newspaper tycoon against Welles, demanding that none of his many newspapers or media conglomerates in any way review or promote the film.

The movie did not originally do well, and it took another 25 years for Citizen Kane, and Welles, to be given well-deserved attention and gain critical acclaim.


The 115-room main house with separate guesthouses, two masterpiece pools and eight acres of gardens sits high above the city of San Simeon, occupying La Cuesta Encantada, “The Enchanted Hill.”  Hearst was known as the consummate host, making sure his guests, which included world leaders President Calvin Coolidge and Winston Churchill and A-list celebrities and notables George Bernard Shaw, Charles Lindbergh and Charlie Chaplin, to name but a few, had everything they’d ever need while staying at the Castle.


The Castle is full of art, both authentic antiquities and priceless reproductions, as Hearst collected whatever he fancied, with few restrictions and little restraint. Hearst’s mother, Phoebe, fueled his lifelong passion for collecting as she threw herself into providing her only son a classical education by way of extended trips to Europe filled with art and culture.


It has been speculated that Hearst’s excessive collecting was perhaps exacerbated by his early experiences with the family’s financial instability.  Hearst’s father made his vast fortune in silver mining, but fortunes were made, lost and regained and young Hearst was forced to move from school to school, shifting with the winds of the family’s financial strength.



Then there’s the Castle’s architect,  Julia Morgan, already a very highly accomplished and well-regarded architect with her own firm when in 1919  Hearst hired her to collaboratively design and build his showpiece.

Imagine the training and skill it would require to work for 28 years alongside a dreamer prone to last-minute changes to the orientation of an entire wing, frequently recreating plans for components of this massive project like someone else might suggest a change in paint color.  Also imagine hiring and managing the thousands of skilled workers and artisans required to complete this mammoth-scale project. And then imagine getting all the equipment up the hill in the first place. One of the first challenges was creating a road–requiring dynamite and a good plan! Julia Morgan was a marvel equal in her field to that of Hearst in his.


Women play a significant role in Hearst’s life and accomplishments. It’s impossible to speak of life at Hearst Castle without referencing Hearst’s companion and longterm mistress,  Marion Davies. Davies was already a successful actress before she met Hearst and I can’t say that I know all that much about the context of their meeting and subsequent life together, but it is clear to me that Davies was more than a “floozy,” to use the vernacular of her day. It would take a woman with intelligence and a strong independent spirit to keep up with Hearst’s larger-than-life personality.


I told you it was a big story! I have other little tidbits I’d enjoy sharing, so I’ll leave you with some more photos from our day at the Castle. It’s quite a place! Let’s visit again on Thursday.


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The Korean Friendship Bell, a gift of peace to Los Angeles

I enjoy my role as blogging tour director, and I’m very grateful you are willing to let me share Southern California from my perspective. One of the best comments I receive is when you tell me that I’ve changed a previously held impression, obviously not a positive view, of Los Angeles.

What you probably need to remember is that Los Angeles covers so much area that many native Angelenos haven’t investigated all the nooks and crannies either.

Today’s tour will take us just 29 miles south of downtown L.A. to one of my favorite destinations within the City of Los Angeles–San Pedro.

We’ve been there before, but you may not recall the name of the town.

Do you remember when we visited the U.S.S Iowa? Or when we conquered the Vincent Thomas Bridge? How about the Port of Los Angeles, 7,500 acres of land and water in San Pedro Bay? This is the busiest container port in the United States and the 9th busiest worldwide when combined with the neighboring Port of Long Beach.

But there is so much more. It is a city of hills, offering panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and a strategic view of Catalina Island. I haven’t taken you with me to Catalina yet. We must do that soon.


I’ve been waiting for something special to come out from under the tarps!

Renovation finally complete, I can now share this very beautiful, and strategically placed  Korean Bell of Friendship.




Isn’t it beautiful?The bell was donated to the people of Los Angeles by the people of the Republic of Korea, to celebrate the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976 and also to honor veterans of the Korean War, consolidating friendship between the two countries.

The bell design suggests the Bronze Bell of King Songdok, cast in 771 A.D. and currently on view in South Korea.

The stone pagoda-style pavilion, constructed in Korea, is supported by twelve columns representing the twelve designs of the Oriental Zodiac.


This beautiful Korean Friendship Bell sits in Angels Gate Park, formerly a section of Fort MacArthur, once responsible for protecting the Southern California coastline during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War years. Sitting high on the bluffs overlooking Los Angeles Harbor, Catalina Channel and the sea terraces of San Pedro Hill, the bell is on the same knoll overlooking the point where U.S. troops have sailed into the Pacific.

Just a few steps from the pagoda you can see remnants of that history.

Abandoned gun turret placements are scattered about and the Temple Bell sits on the battery once housing munitions bunkers. There are still many military buildings, not in use, but a reminder of how San Pedro has played a role in national defense.


Do you have time for one more stop in my brief tour of San Pedro?


Isn’t this a charming little lighthouse?


The Point Fermin Lighthouse was the first navigational light into the San Pedro Bay. The Stick Style Victorian lighthouse was used for six lighthouses built between 1873 and 1874, with three still standing–East Brothers in San Francisco Bay, Hereford Light in New Jersey, and this little beauty.

Between 1927 and 1941 the light was electrified and managed by the city, but the light was extinguished on December 7th, 1941, out of fear that the light would be a beacon to enemy ships and planes, making the coastline vulnerable to attack. Instead, during WWII, the lighthouse was used as a US Navy lookout tower and signaling stations for ships coming into the harbor.

The light was never lit again, and following the war the lighthouse was turned over to the City of Los Angeles. It is open to the public and is part of a lovely park with beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean.


San Pedro is home to family members and we visit frequently. I’m still trying to work in a private tour of some of the abandoned Nike Missile defense sites and as you can imagine, I have a lot of questions. When I twist just the right arm and get in “a little deeper” I’ll take you on another tour…and then there’s Catalina Island.

I have so many stories to tell! I’d better get my calendar synchronized. What’s on your calendar? Can I come, too?