Mar 12, 2014

Castles in the United States, Part Two

Here are more castles that are my favorite, found in the United States. The first one is an estate built by the wealthy and eccentric, William Randolph Hearst, who died in 1951. In 1957, the Hearst Corporation donated the property to the state of California. The Hearst name became famous when the granddaughter, Patricia "Patty" Hearst, was kidnapped and brainwashed by her kidnappers, a terrorist group in the United States.

Hearst Castle
The Hearst Castle was originally called La Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Hill), but Mr. Hearst called it “the ranch”. It is located near the community called San Simeon, which is about 250 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The site was built on Rancho Piedra Blanca, purchased by William's father, George Hearst in 1865. Williams was fond of the property because he spent childhood family camping trips there. When he inherited the ranch from his mother, Phoebe Hearst in 1919, the property had grown to 250,000 acres with 14 miles of coastline. The ranch already had a Victorian mansion on it and the Hearst Castle was built on top of a steep hill with only a dirt path that could be accessed by either foot or horseback in over five miles of cutback terrain.
In 1915, Hearst asked American architect, Julia Morgan to make his ideas become reality. The original idea was to build a bungalow, but that idea grew to much grander proportions. After one month of planning with Morgan, the exterior drawings were finished and the interior design was discussed over time. In the summer of 1919, Morgan surveyed the site, analyzed the geology, and the final plans materialized for the main building. Construction began in 1919 and continued until 1947, the year Hearst's health turned for the worse.
The design was based upon Hearst's admiration of European historical architecture, and it would be the place where he could furnish the estate with the vast amount of art and antiques he had collected through the years that were overcrowding warehouses.
The floor plan included a private cinema whose walls were lined with rare books. The Hearst Castle had 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, sitting on 127 acres complete with gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield, and the world's largest private zoo. Zebras and other exotic animals still roam the property. Being an engineer, Hearst devised and designed many structures on the property, working with architect Morgan. The Neptune Pool is one of the highlights of the estate, It looks like ancient Roman baths complete with an ancient Roman temple front that was transported from Europe and reconstructed on site. The ornamentation of the Hearst Castle is borrowed from historic European designs, but the underlying structure is steel reinforced concrete to ensure it lasts. When Hearst owned the property, a private power plant supplied electricity to the remote location.
Today, the total square footage of the buildings on the estate are over 90,000 square feet with the area called Casa Grande being 60,645 square feet. There are three guest houses: Casa del Mar (5,875 square feet), Casa del Monte (2,291 square feet), and Casa del Sol (2,604 square feet).
Famous people of the 1920s and 1930s were invited by Hearst who were the Hollywood or political crowd of society, usually flying into the estate's private airfield or taking the private Hearst-owned train car from Los Angeles. Among the list of famous guests were: Charlie Chaplain, Cary Grant, Marx Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, James Stewart, Bob Hope, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Roosevelt, Dolores Del Rio, and Winston Churchill. The estate's theater usually screened films from Hearst's studio: Cosmopolitan Productions. Hearst Castle inspired the mansion in the film Citizen Kane starring Orson Welles. [1941]
The Hearst family continues to use the older Victorian house as a retreat, being screened by a dense grove of eucalyptus trees to provide privacy from tourists visiting the Hearst Castle. The property was added to the list of the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and became a United States National Landmark on May 11th, 1976. Hearst Castle was included in the Forbes Travel website as one of the 10 Amazing Castles in the United States.
See more detail at the official Hearst Castle website.

This 38-room mansion is on the shore of Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe, California, and registered with the National Register of Historic Places.
Lora J. Knight
The foundation was built in 1928 and the building was constructed in 1929 by 200 workers. It was built for Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight as a summer home. Using old-fashioned building techniques, some parts of the structure have no nails or spikes. Most of the material to build the home was obtained in the Lake Tahoe area. Mrs. Knight and her husband were primary financial backers for the non-stop solo flight of Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927.
Vikingsholm was built in the Scandinavia architecture style on property she bought for $250,000 in 1928 – Fannette Island and Emerald Bay. The timbers were hand-hewn from local trees and carved with Scandinavian themed designs. The hinges and latches were custom forged. Granite for the foundation and walls came from a quarry behind the mansion. The interior has paintings on the ceilings and walls with two carved dragon beams. It has six fireplaces of Scandinavian design with unique fireplace screens.
Most of the furnishings were selected by Mrs. Knight, a reflection of Scandinavian homes of that period.
Furnishings on the second floor were reproduced from architectural drawings of 18th and 19th century museum pieces. Overall, it is architecture that takes one back to the medieval period in history.
It is now a state park and registered with as a National Natural Landmark and tours are given for a fee. 
For more information about Emerald Bay, Vikingsholm, and Fannette Island – click HERE.

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