Although the United States has never been a monarchy, there have been some truly royal residents. Among the most renowned was the media tycoon, William Randolph Hearst. Although he died nearly six decades ago, the impact he left is still being felt today. One of his biggest and most beautiful imprints is on the central coast of California. The amazingly ornate Hearst Castle was constructed over a period of nearly 30 years (from 1919 to 1947) and was the pinnacle of social invitations even before it was finished. Also known as La Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Slope) and San Simeon (after the area in California it’s located in) Hearst Castle easily rivals the grandest palaces of Europe. Among its many attributes, some of the original features were fifty six bedrooms, sixty one bathrooms, nineteen sitting rooms, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, 127 acres of gardens, a movie theater, airfield and the at one time world’s largest private zoo.
Originally planned as a modest dwelling, the project ballooned into a massive home featuring a mixture of various architectural styles that its owner enjoyed during his European travels. Some of the more notable visitors to Hearst Castle in its heyday included Charlie Chaplin, Jean Harlow, President Calvin Coolidge, Greta Garbo, Winston Churchill, and Howard Hughes. Even they were awed upon their visit as they watched the many wild animals Hearst imported freely roaming the land. Although he closed the zoo due to financial difficulties in 1937, even today some zebra can occasionally be spotted grazing the hillsides. Everything about the property is striking and amazing. Staring at the Neptune Pool one can imagine the lavish parties and grand celebrations that once dominated the residence. Surrounded in marble, grand colonnades, magnificent sculptures and bas-reliefs, the 345,000 gallon pool is the definition of opulence. Of course the indoor Roman Pool lined in gold and Venetian glass isn’t exactly anything to turn your nose up at either.
Even though the plot is significantly smaller than it once was, Hearst Castle still has eight acres of lush gardens, over 90,000 square feet of studies, dining rooms and towers, rare and exquisite art works, incredibly intricate ceilings, and enough eye candy to keep you drooling throughout the many tours they offer. In 1957 the Hearst Corporation donated the property to the state of California and today it is a National Historic Landmark as well as a California state park. The estate and its impressive collection of art and antiques open to the public and even though Hearst Castle’s location is nowhere near any major urban areas, it still manages to attraction approximately one million visitors each year. If you do take a trip here, be prepared to walk, a lot! All except for one tour (a special handicap accessible offering) include numerous steps and hills so make sure to pack a comfy pair of shoes and loose comfortable clothing. Needless to say, a visit to this glorious home will be well worth a couple of sore feet.
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