Photo Essay

Marble Sculptures at Hearst Castle

The Three Graces

Hearst Castle is located near San Simeon on the California Coast, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It was built by William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper tycoon, in collaboration with San Francisco architect Julia Morgan. Planning started in 1919 and construction continued over the next 27 years. Hearst used it to house his extensive collection of European art and to hold lavish parties for the Hollywood elite. He lived there with his mistress, the actress Marion Davies. His wife lived in New York and never visited the castle.

The castle is built on a hill La Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Hill), overlooking broad pastures and the Pacific Ocean. There is a fully functional airport runway near the castle. Hearst had his newpapers flown to him from all over the country every day. Hearst would call up each of his newspaper editors and go over the details with them. He kept tight control of the editorial content of his papers.

There also used to be a zoo on the property, with lions, tigers, zebras, giraffes and elephants, one of the largest private zoos in the world. Some of the less exotic animals still roam the property.

Hearst's father made his fortune by discovering silver ore in California and Nevada during the Gold Rush (while everyone else was looking for gold). He bought thousands of acres of farmland along the Central California coast, south of Big Sur. The Hearst family used to come there for hunting and camping. William Randolph Hearst got tired of staying in tents and wanted to build a hunting lodge. He hired an unknown architect Julia Morgan for the job. The project ended up being a 115 room twin-towered European castle La Casa Grande, with three lavish guest houses (he planned to build seven), beautiful indoor and outdoor swimming pools, gardens, tennis courts, covered walkways, and the exotic zoo.

Famous movie stars and politicians frequented the castle on weekend getaways. Men and women were required to stay in separate guest houses. No drinking was allowed. Meals were only served in Casa Grande. Since Hearst was a fast eater, guests had to eat fast in order to not stay hungry. They played bridge, smoked cigars and chatted in the living rooms afterwards.

Hearst's interest in European art and architecture was ignited by his frequent trips to Europe as a child with his mother. Once he acquired wealth, he started collecting European works of art such as tapestries, paintings, and sculpture. The castle and guest houses are built with and adorned with actual ceilings, doors and walls from European churches, monasteries and castles. They are furnished with 14th, 15th and 16th century French and Italian furniture, tapestries and rugs. Hearst Castle is one of the world's largest private museum. Only a small percentage of the entire collection is on display. The rest is stored in underground temperature and humidity controlled vaults.

These pictures show some of the marble sculptures in the outdoor gardens and courtyards.

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