Post by Kyle St. Romain.
If you enjoy experiencing high design, then the tour of the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California should be on the top of your to do list. Two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Hearst Castle for myself having first learned about it from an episode of the History Channel. Pictures hardly do it justice, and the drive up there is breathtaking.
If you don’t know about the Hearst Castle, it is the largest private estate in California. Donated by the Hearst Corporation in 1957, the castle was originally constructed by William Randolph Hearst and designed by renowned architect Julia Morgan in the early to mid 1900s. It is the west coast’s answer to the Biltmore estate in North Carolina, though the climate is much nicer in California and the ocean views are unmatched.
The Hearst Castle took over 28 years of continuous construction before bankrupting WR Hearst, and it was never completed. It is estimated to have cost nearly $10,000,000 (about $133 million in 2011 dollars); however, the exact cost of construction is unknown. The castle, which is more a village than anything else, features 56 bedrooms sprawling over 100 acres. So, as you can imagine, I got to see a lot of different bedrooms on my tours; each one designed with its own unique theme. As a regular writer here at the Charles P Rogers blog, I was sure to take a lot of pictures to share with you.
What surprised me the most about the bedrooms at the Hearst castle is their size. I knew they were going to be luxuriously appointed, but didn’t imagine them being so small. The beds are even quite small by today’s standards. Why is this? Space was certainly not an issue, as the entire estate encompasses more than 90,000 square feet, so it had to be something else.
While I don’t have the architect’s notes to give you a definitive answer as to why the bedrooms were designed so small, my guess is that it is a combination of utility—bedrooms had a more a singular purpose then—and design conventions of the era. Also, while the estate featured state-of-the-art electric heaters, it gets pretty cold on top of the mountain during the winter, and a smaller bedroom would have be easier to keep warm.
I left the castle dreaming of one day owning a home as grand as one of the many guest cottages scattered throughout the property. However, that is unlikely as I imagine international treaties prohibit the importation of the antiquities you’d need to decorate your bedroom in similar style today as many of the architectural features were salvaged from European churches.
If you’ve visited the Hearst Castle, we’d love to hear what you think. We also welcome ideas about other marvelous homes to visit. Share your thoughts in the comments below.