William Randolph Hearst
William Randolph Hearst was one of the most influential Americans of his day. Born in 1863 to a wealthy mining family in San Francisco, Hearst studied journalism at Harvard and acquired his first newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner in 1887 at the age of 23. In 1895 he entered the most important newspaper market of the day, New York, with his purchase of the New York Morning Journal and his creation of the Evening Journal a year later.
Hearst revolutionized the world of newspaper journalism. Such famous reporters as Ambrose Bierce, Jack London and Mark Twain all worked for him. He believed heavily in reporting investigations, and greatly welcomed sensationalism. His newspapers were all lavishly illustrated, doing their best to attract attention in a crowded newspaper market. These illustrations also included some of the first major work in the world of comic strips, playing a large role in creating the current newspaper comic strip market.
Hearst is perhaps most famous as a newspaper man for his role in the Spanish-American War, where Frederick Remington, one of his artists had travelled to Cuba to cover the Spanish war against the Cuban revolutionaries. Remington asked Hearst to come back home, explaining that there was no war. According to reports, Hearst responded “You provide the pictures; I’ll provide the war.”
The sensationalist style of journalism practiced by Hearst came to be known as “yellow journalism”, as many of Hearst’s papers were printed on yellow paper. This period of journalistic history is now known as the period of “yellow journalism.”
As the 20th Century began, new media markets began to open up, most notably film. Hearst became an important player in the newly developing world of movie-making, producing over 100 films.
Hearst is also the subject of one of the most critically acclaimed American movies of all time: Citizen Kane. Written, directed by and starring prominent young film-maker Orson Welles (who made his name with the infamous radio broadcast of War of the Worlds), Citizen Kane is a parody of the life of Hearst. Kane’s darkly luxurious and lavish estate Xanadu is based off Hearst’s own San Simeon estate, more commonly known as Hearst Castle
Hearst Castle lies buried in the Santa Lucia mountains of California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Construction on the vast estate began in 1919, and continued until 1947, only 4 years before Hearst’s death. Even then the estate remained uncomplete. Spanning an incredible 127 acres, the estate includes numerous gardens, pools, 165 rooms and even a private zoo. Although exact costs are uncertain for the construction and decoration, upwards estimates range at about 10 million dollars, an amazing amount for the time.
Although originally called San Simeon, that name has now come to refer to the town that has grown in its wake, San Simeon, California. The estate is now commonly known as Hearst Castle, although it is not in actuality a castle, but a collection of buildings, gardens, pools, tennis courts, stables and terraces. The main structure, where Hearst kept residence, is Casa Grande, which included a small but fully functional private movie theater. There are also 3 guest houses, Casa del Mar, Casa del Monte and Casa del Sol. During his 32 years at the estate, Hearst himself referred to the castle as “the Ranch.”
In the first half of the 20th Century, invitations to the estate were highly prized. Guests included such notable persons of the day as Winston Churchill, Cary Grant, Joan Crawford, Charlie Chaplin and Charles Lindbergh. Guests to the estate were expected to attend a formal dinner each evening, but during the day were essentially given free reign over the grounds. Considering all the grounds had to offer, it is unsurprising that invitations were so highly prized.
Visiting Hearst Castle Today
After the death of William Randolph Hearst, the San Simeon estate was donated to the state of California in 1957. It has now become both a state historical monument and a national historical landmark. The monument is also supported by the non-profit organization, the Friends of Hearst Castle (FHC).
There are no less than 5 guided tours that allow visitors to the monument to see various parts of the estate. (The estate is far too massive to be properly seen in a single tour.)
Tour 1 is the experience tour, intended for first-time visitors, designed to allow visitors to get a basic feel of the estate, taking guests through Casa del Sol as well as the main house Casa Grande. Guests also visit through the gardens and two of the pools on the estate: the Neptune and Roman pools.
Tours 2 and 3 allow guests a more intimate look of Casa Grande, more fully exploring its 115 rooms. Tour 2 takes guests through the upper floors of the house, while Tour 3 gives guests a chance to see the north wing. Tour four, only available April through October, takes visitors on a guided walk through the gardens and terraces.
Tour 5 is a special treat for visitors to Hearst Castle. This evening tour, available in the spring and fall, lets tourists get an idea of what it would be like to visit the estate when it was hosted by William Randolph Hearst himself. Re-enactors are spread across the estate in period dress, and give visitors a true glimpse into the past life of Hearst Castle.
Tours are given daily, save for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Tickets for the tours can be reserved either over the phone or online at their web site. Tickets are relatively inexpensive, running only about 20 dollars per adult and 10 dollars for youths (age 6-17).
Hearst Castle is a unique experience in the United States and the world. Few other places are so massive, so luxurious, so elegantly decadent in their splendor and display of wealth. If you live in southern California or are taking a trip there, you owe it to yourself to experience Hearst Castle in all of its restored and refurbished glory, a true testament to the powers of man and informative of a man of great importance in American history, William Randolph Hearst.
Hearst Castle exterior – tower La Cuesta Encantada – HearstCastle – San Simeon, CA – View from the grounds I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the following by CC via Wikimedia Commons