Saturday, March 3, 2012

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California


usbackroads destination--Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California

This is the second stop on our Rich Man's Monuments to Bad Taste.   The first was Sam Hill's Maryhill, Washington estate.  William Randolph Hearst's Castle makes Sam Hill's estate actually seem in good taste.  Well, at least in LESS bad taste.  Here is the wilki-pedia link to Hearst Castle.  And the link to William Randolph Hearst.

Should you go to see a rich man's bad taste?  Absolutely.  Go soon, more on this later. The tours are expensive at $25 per person.  But then you get to ride in a fancy bus, from the visitor center up to the Castle.  We took the Grand Room tour.  Interesting, but next time I would take the personal rooms tour particularly after reading up on William Randolph Hearst.  The visitor center paints a rather fawning picture of Hearst, but then again this was his house and I suppose it is unfair to speak ill of the dead at the former homestead.

Most of the furnishing were taken (bought) from middle-age churches in Europe.  Mostly Catholic, though I did notice a few icons in display.  Now, I am not an arbitrator of good taste,  far from it.  However, furnishing your home with church pieces from the Middle Ages??

The Grand Rooms were pretty much dark and oppressive places.  All that sunshine and light with the fog to make it a magical place.  The spectacular Big Sur setting and the building is designed to be dark and gloomy!!

William Hearst invited the rich and powerful of the world to this "special " place.  So the guest list sounds like a whose who of the rich and powerful in the United States and the world.  Of course, those were his contemporaries.

Even John Kennedy came here as a boy and brought his wife on his honeymoon as a guest of Hearst.

No mention of it on the tour, however, my observation was that William was rather into "perky" woman.

As you wander the grounds there are LOTS of statues all paying tribute to "perky" woman.  I suspect that William's taste must have been developed and set in the flapper era of the 1920's.  Rather late in life I must say.   I am sure that somewhere in the archives of major university there is a dissertation on the statues of Hearst Castle and their social significance. However, not a peep from the guide.

The most impressive part of the grounds were the pools.  Yes, the urge to jump in and take a swim was overwhelming.  The guide kept talking about Hearst requiring all his guests to go horseback riding.  Hmm, maybe to get them to cool down afterwards??

The tours take about an hour and then you are free to wander the grounds.  Plan on doing that.  The views are wonderful and there are many great places to sit and enjoy.  Forget about bringing a picnic lunch no food is allowed on the grounds.  Not even chewing gum.

Go soon.  I notice the little things about parks and recreation sites.  Well, for Hearst Castle the question is how long can the state of California afford this??  There are over 120 state employees and a budget of 10.5 million dollars each and every year.  Even at $25 a tour I suspect the costs are not being covered from the admission fees.

The story was that the Hearst family "donated" the castle to the state of California so they no longer had to pay the maintenance costs.  They did reserve the right to use property "on occasion".  Hmm, I am willing to cut the same deal on my house!  The relationship between the Hearst Corporation and the state of California at the visitor center also made me somewhat nervous.  I am not sure there is a connection between "grass fed beef" and a state park.

But wait, there is more.  In 2004 the taxpayers of California, paid the Hearst family 95 million dollars for developmental rights on the property.  The US Forest Service has backed off buying  "conservation easements".  Generally, they run about 85-90% of the properties value.  Then the "seller" gets to keep and run the property just like they always have.....and for 95 milliion you would think the public would get more than this sign.  So for just another 15 million the people of California could have OWNED the property.

Yes, 95 million dollars and you cannot step foot on your investment.  Oh well, at least the taxpayers of California footed most of the bill.

But go soon.  This foolishness is expensive and soon there will not be enough money to pay for all of this.  I am not sure why the government seems to have an obligation to support the bad taste and habits of rich people?

Now buying this land it is a different story.  For the castle, save the historical items and move them to a museum or return them to Europe.  And let the "castle" slowly return to nature as a ruin.  Moon light tours among the ruins?   A fitting end in my humble opinion.

As always click on photo to enlarge.

No comments: