Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Mystery Photo 28: Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California

The Mystery Photo 28 is indeed a unique castle -- Hearst Castle at San Simeon, California. This 60,645 square feet Casa Grande, the main building of "La Cuesta Encantada" (The Enchanted Hill) was built by architect Julia Morgan, between 1919 and 1954 at the behest of then famous newspaper Randolph William Hearst. Hearst purchased the property consisting of 245,000 acres, and 14 miles of Pacific coastline in 1915. This wonderful and scenic property was located in the coastal foothills of the Santa Lucia mountain range. It was then and still remains a somewhat remote and unpopulated area due to these mountains. For some years Mr. Hearst and his family visited this site and what he called in spite of his own fantasy name for the location, his "ranch." During those early years he and his family engaged in tent camping on the hillsides, but eventually built a Victorian home in a eucalyptus grove over the hill from the later Castle. In 1919, Hearst hired Julia Morgan as an architect to build a permanent home on the top of a hill on his property overlooking the Pacific Ocean. His first intension was a smaller bungalow, but those plans gradually evolved into a larger and larger mansion, built in Spanish Colonial style. Hearst was a great antique collector. Especially he purchased large antique statues, stone works, and even sarcophagi. He assembled a collection of old ceilings from churches and monasteries in Europe and had his architect design rooms to fit those ceilings. That is one reason that his mansion became so large, so intricate, and in some cases so strangely laid out.

     Interestingly Julia Morgan was the first woman graduate from L'Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Art. in Paris. She and Hearst worked on this mansion until 1947. At this time Hearst ceased going to visit his "ranch" as often and eventually a worsening health stopped the progress on Hearst Castle. To this day it sits there with one whole end not completed on the outside. During its heyday, many famous people visited Hearst Castle, among them Hollywood stars such as Clark Gable,  and even Presidents such as Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Even Winston Churchill was a guest there. Adjacent to the mansion, were two lovely 2,000 to 3,000 foot guest "cottages.' There was plenty for guests to do at Hearst Castle including a huge outdoor Greek style swimming pool below the Castle, and a connecting large indoor pool, a theatre, tennis courts, dozens of bedrooms, sitting rooms, a wine cellar, library, and even the largest private wild animal zoo in North America, at the time.

     Hearst died in 1951 and the property could no longer be maintained by the family. It was donated to the State of California in 1954.

Sunset over the Pacific taken from the Terrace of the main building of Hearst Castle.

     There are several different tours of the Castle that can be taken as it is too large and extensive to see in one tour. We have taken most of the tours during different visits to this iconic location. However, one of the most memorable tours was an evening one, led by a California State Park director through the auspices of the yearly Spring Birding Festival headquartered in Morro Bay, situated just a short distance north of San Simeon. This tour was arranged only for registered attendees of the Bird Festival and had to be reserved in advance. The purpose of the evening visit was to view three different species of bats that make their residence at Hearst Castle.
Workmen repairing tile roof of Hearst Castle. The bats day roosted and nested
under these tiles.

A single bat spent the summer season day roosting in the lock mechanism of
this glass encased guest house door.

Our leader had tape recordings of some of the bats calls and at dusk began playing the tapes. One common species of bat called the.... is present in large numbers and lives under the edges of the tiles of the roof of the Castle. As soon as the sun fell and the tape began these bats began streaming out of their roosts. Another species of bat was living actually inside the attic of the castle and had to be evicted with the accesses sealed up because the bat guano was damaging the walls of the rooms below. A third species was living under some cement works of the gorgeous outdoor Neptune Pool. This particular species had not yet, appeared so early in the season. Our Park Director showed us on psot in the overlaid glass of one of the guest cottage doors where everyday a single bat roosted all day long as the daytime visitors put their hands on the door knob and opened and closed that door. I could just imagine those many people who are still to this day somewhat skittish about the ideas of bats in spite of most of the benefits that this species provides -- yes, I could imagine those thoughts if only some of these skittish folks knew of the bat's presence. After we had had our fill of the bats which unfortunately for this piece, did not provide good photo material, we went inside the Castle. The Park Director asked if there was any area of the mansion that the group would like to see. I mentioned the Wine Cellar, and so that was our first stop. The following dark photos show some areas of the castle in an unusual light. Please enjoy them for what they are -- representatives of a very unique and memorable visit to this iconic home. For other photos of the Castle in daytime, I recommend the following websites:



Above we see several examples of Curacao Triple Sec Bardinett. This is an orange flavored liqueur that has quite an interesting history but which is still made today. There is a fruit called the laraha citrus fruit which is similar to the Valencia orange. It was transplanted from Spain to Curacao in the Caribbean in 1527. However, on Curacao it did not grow like it did back in Spain, instead producing small hard bitter little fruits. However, it was discovered that an oil made from the dried peels retained some orange flavor along with variable amounts of bitters which were found to flavor a local alcoholic brew called Triple Sec. The current Curacao Triple Sec today is the only one which can claim the use of the original Curacao variety of laraha fruit.

This entire case is filled with what appears to be red Italian wines under the name Martin. Now there still is a wine dstributer operating in the United States. I don't know if this distributor put their labels on all these bottles of wine or not, or whether there was an Italian vintner  by this name at the time of Randolph Hearst and his big parties. We did see some Bordeaux in the cellar but were told these were empty bottles. The excellent wine in them had been consumed long ago.

More photos below -------Please scroll downwards.

     It appears that the interest of our visiting group, in addition to the wine cellar, tended toward the culinary. The next photos are of the dining room and some of its art objects and then the kitchen, where most visitors do not visit.

The ceiling in this sitting room was purchased whole and then the room was designed to
accommodate the antique ceiling.

Objects of art in the sitting room.

A cloth table runner in the dining room.

The dim chandelier lighting barely illuminates the very long guest dining room table.

This is our bat watching group milling around in the living room. We were told we could step beyond the confining rope boundaries and look at anything we wished to look at.
A set of candlesticks placed on a sideboard in front of a very antique tapestry. Randolph
Hearst had an exquisite taste for wonderful antiques and his Castle was built to display them.

     And the kitchen:

No comments:

Post a Comment