Hearst Castle

By the time William Randolph Hearst inherited the property in 1919, the family ranch originally known as “Camp Hill” near San Simeon encompassed 250,000 acres. Its wilderness setting allowed family members and friends to “rough it” in elaborate sleeping and dining tents on camping trips. Hearst wanted something more comfortable, and his collaboration with famed San Francisco architect Julia Morgan created one of the world’s greatest show places. Twenty-eight years later, the estate contained a magnificent main house (Casa Grande) and three guest houses in the Mediterranean Revival style, totaling 165 rooms. Gardens, pools, terraces and walkways filled 127 acres. Hundreds of thousands of annuals, bulbs and perennials provided the year-round color Hearst enjoyed in his garden. He also created the largest private zoo in the world, displaying an exotic menagerie of freely roaming bison, elk, deer, antelope, zebras, camels, kangaroos, ostriches, emus, sheep, musk oxen, and yaks. Giraffes were kept in a small pen. A changing assortment of monkeys, birds, and carnivorous predators were caged as well. The dismantling of the zoo began in 1937, after Mr. Hearst’s financial difficulties forced him to cut expenses at the ranch. Most of the animals were placed elsewhere by 1953. Since 1958, when it became a California State Park, Hearst Castle has received 38 million visitors.


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