From Humble to Hearst Castle

This schoolhouse in Old San Simeon along California’s Central Coast is a humble contrast to the opulence of Hearst Castle on top of the hill behind it. The one-room school was built in 1881.

"View of Hearst Castle from San Simeon School House"

When newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst built his estate in the early 1900s, he was inspired by the castles and art he had seen on a European trip as a child.

"Casa Grande at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California"

Casa Grande

The architecture of the main house, Casa Grande, and the three surrounding guest bungalows is Mediterranean Revival style.

"Opulent Guest House at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California"

Guest Bungalow

Each building is decorated with a large collection of European art and ancient artifacts, which were among Hearst’s passions.

"Interior of Casa Grande at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California"

Casa Grande Interior

He also loved to swim, and there are two pools at the estate. This Roman-style indoor pool is decorated with floor to ceiling mosaic tiles.

"Roman Pool at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California"

Roman Pool at Hearst Castle

The Greco-Roman style outdoor pool was rebuilt twice until the third met with Hearst’s approval.

"Beautiful Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California"

Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle

Several tours are available of the luxurious main house, guest houses and grounds. The Grand Rooms Tour is recommended for first time visitors and is about 45 minutes. Afterwards, the grounds can be toured at your leisure. The ticket also includes a 40-minute movie at the visitor’s center that tells the story of the castle’s construction and the work of architect Julia Morgan. It also shows several of Hearst’s notable guests.

"Lovely grounds at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California"

33 thoughts on “From Humble to Hearst Castle

  1. Sabrina

    Wow! I can’t believe that first building used to be a school. And I agree with Nancie: I so wanna go for a swim in that pool. It’s beautiful!

    1. Cathy Post author

      It’s hard to imagine going to school in that little place, isn’t it? Things were so different in that time and for people who were not rich like Hearst!

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks so much! Hearst Castle is definitely worth a second visit if you haven’t been there in a while. This was my second time there, too.

  2. Laurel

    I never would have guessed this was in California, it really does look like it belongs in Europe. Would love to do a tour of it the next time I’m in California.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Yes, come see Hearst Castle sometime. It would be interesting to see what you think since you’ve visited so many European castles!

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks, John. Indeed, they’ve kept it up well. They were doing some maintenance on it while we were there, too. Glad you liked the title — I like to have a little fun with those.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Lots of reasons to visit California! Would have been quite an experience to go to school there. I’d like to get more information about its history.

  3. Sophie

    Hearst Castle is a cool building. I visited when I was 17 or so, ages ago. Oddly, what I remember most is that the tennis courts were all white and thinking how I would be blinded trying to play there.

  4. Sherry

    It would’ve been nice to live in that estate, if only in my dreams. But I’d probably only be able to live there for a few days as I’m not really a big fan of big homes. What would probably keep me there in that week’s time is that marvelous indoor Roman pool. I could spend all day, everyday in there until I am all wrinkled like a prune. Ah, such opulence!

  5. Renee

    Didn’t Hearst build that for Marion Davies? I know he was quite the philanderer and I seem to remember reading something about him buying some ridiculously large estate for her. Nice digs though!!

    1. Cathy Post author

      The way I understand it, Marion was indeed Hearst’s “companion” and hostess of parties at Hearst Castle. But the home he built specifically for her was a beach house in Santa Monica. Nice, huh?

  6. Christy @ Technosyncratic

    Wow, what a juxtaposition between the two buildings! Living in California for the last number of years I’ve had a lot of opportunity to hear random things about Hearst, but I’ve never had the chance to see this. Someday hopefully I will, though! Like everyone else, I’d take a dip in that pool.

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