After seeing the seals, we went for a tour of Hearst Castle. It was designed by architect Julia Morgan between 1919 and 1947 for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. It was impressive that in 1919 a female architect was chosen for this project. Hearst chose her because she studied in Europe and because the buildings she designed in San Francisco made it through the 1906 earthquake without crumbling. Hearst formally named the estate “La Cuesta Encantada” (“The Enchanted Hill”), but usually called it “the ranch” since it was built on part of the land of his family’s ranch.
William Hearst traveled Europe with his mother when he was 10 years old and fell in love with the Spanish and Italian architecture. He had a dream to build a house that incorporated that architecture. He collected European art and artifacts throughout his life and a good deal of that collection is in this castle. Invitations to the Hearst Castle were highly coveted and he entertained the Hollywood and political elite. Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Bob Hope, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt were among his guests. As you can see from the pictures, there was plenty to do here – indoor and outdoor pools, billiards, card playing, meals in the dining room. There were three guest cottages with 20 bedrooms and 38 bedrooms in the main house. In addition to his newspaper empire, he owned a movie studio and many times his guests would dine with the movie stars and then adjourn to the theatre in the house and watch their latest movies.
He was an animal lover and had a zoo on the property too. Many of the animals roamed around the property (he did keep the polar bears in cages). In the late 1930s, he ran into financial issues and gave many of his animals to California zoos. The zebras that he had were allowed to roam on the ranch with the cattle and they are still there today. It is a bit strange to be driving down California Highway 1 and see a herd of zebras.