Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument

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The estate is popularly known as Hearst Castle In 1865, George Hearst, a wealthy miner, purchased 40,000-acres of ranchland that included the Mexican Ranchos of Piedras Blancas, San Simeon and Santa Rosa. In 1919, his only son, William Randolph Hearst, inherited the land from his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst. By then the ranch had grown to encompass 250,000 acres.

Originally known as “Camp Hill,” its wilderness offered a place for family members and friends to “rough it” on camping trips. Despite elaborate arrangements with separate sleeping and dining tents, Hearst envisioned more comfortable accommodations. His simple instructions to famed San Francisco architect Julia Morgan in 1919: “Miss Morgan, we are tired of camping out in the open at the ranch in San Simeon and I would like to build a little something”

Hearst and Morgan’s collaboration was destined to become one of the world’s greatest showplaces. As they were planning and constructing his dream home, Hearst renamed the rocky perch from which it rose “La Cuesta Encantada” – The Enchanted Hill. By 1947, Hearst and Morgan had created an estate of 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways.

The estate’s magnificent main house, “Casa Grande,” and three guest houses are of Mediterranean Revival style, while the imposing towers of Casa Grande were inspired by a Spanish cathedral. The blending of the architectural style with the surrounding land, and Hearst’s superb European and Mediterranean art collection, was so seamless that world-renowned architectural historian, Lord John Julius Norwich, was moved to say that “Hearst Castle is a palace in every sense of the word.”

California State Parks and Tour History

Hearst Castle is one of the largest of approximately 5,000 historic house museums in the U.S., with one of the most sophisticated guided tour programs in the country. Once the home of William Randolph Hearst, California State Parks strives to keep the estate looking like a private residence. The historic museum tours take the visitor back into time through the interpretation of a combination of many aspects regarding the historic California estate, including William Randolph Hearst and his family, and the collection, architecture, gardens and lifestyle at the Castle. Formal guide training is an integral aspect of Hearst Castle. Castle tour guides are initially trained a total of 168 hours with additional in-service training and ongoing independent study between tours, resulting in a high quality interpretive experience for all who visit this magnificent California vacation attraction known as “The Enchanted Hill.”

As early as 1952 President Sproul of UC Berkeley proposed that William Randolph Hearst’s ranch at San Simeon be given to the Division of Beaches and Parks as a monument. Trial tours of the historic mansion and estate undertaken in September 1952, lasted over two hours but were quickly pared down to one hour plus the bus trip up and down the hill.

Donated to the People of the State of California in December 1957 by the Hearst Corporation, dedication ceremonies for the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument were held June 2, 1958 at the old visitor’s center. Following the ceremonies, attraction tours opened to the public at 1:00 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets were $2 for adults and $1 for children 6-12. There was only one tour, now called Tour 1, and its route was similar to today’s Tour 1, covering the first floor rooms of Casa Grande and one of the three guesthouses. Today there are three distinct daytime tour routes, each with a guide leading visitors through different areas of the estate and museum.

In the summer of 1964, the State introduced Tour 2 to provide viewing and interpretation of the upper rooms of the main house, Casa Grande. In June 1968, Tour 3 was added, and in 1982, Tour 4. Accessibly-Designed Tour began in 1974, and cover the ground floor of the main house (including the kitchen), the gardens and pools, and the main level of one guesthouse, Casa del Mar.

Over the years the public indicated an interest in touring the estate at night. In response, a pilot program for an Evening Tour of the estate and museum was developed and presented for the first time on April 21, 1989. The interpretive objective of this program is to recreate an evening at Hearst Castle in the 1930′s, with a general emphasis on the social history of 1930-1935 and, more specifically, on Hearst employees and former guests. Docents in the Living History Program, dressed in period clothing, provide tableaus illustrating the social history discussed on tour. The Evening Tour is available most Friday and Saturday nights in Spring and Fall.