Tuesday, October 25, 2022
We signed up for a tour of the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. There were several options, ranging from 1 – 2 hours in length. We opted for the Julia Morgan tour, two hours long, because we thought it would focus more on the architect – Julia Morgan. Okay, she was mentioned a few times, but we didn’t learn much about her on the tour.
Julia Morgan initially graduated with a degree from Berkeley in civil engineering in 1894. Civil Engineers generally work on public projects, such as roads, dams, sewer systems and bridges. She became interested in architecture, and was encouraged by a visiting lecture to apply to École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Her application was denied because the École had never admitted a woman before. They relented, and she became the first woman to receive a certificate in architecture.
In 1904, Morgan became the first woman to be licensed as an architect in California. Over the years, Phoebe Hearst had been aware of Morgan’s work, which included libraries, churches, college buildings, and houses. She recommended Morgan to her son, William Randolph Hearst, when he decided to build a mansion in San Simeon. Julia Morgan worked on the project for 28 years, where she supervised nearly every aspect of construction at Hearst Castle, including the purchase of furnishings for the home.
On May 28, 2008, Julia Morgan was inducted into the California Hall of Fame. In 2014, she was awarded, posthumously, the AIA Gold Medal, the highest award of the American Institute of Architects She is the first female architect to receive this honor.
On our way, we stopped at a couple of places on the coast where elephant seals spend a few weeks at a time throughout the year. In the spring, adult seals come to the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery near San Simeon, where the females give birth, raise their pups, then mate again. They return to the sea, where the fertilized eggs begin to develop. After about seven months, the females return to give birth, and start the cycle again. The pups are weaned at one month, then begin traveling north at three months, as far as Alaska. As juveniles, they come back to the rookery in the fall for a few weeks.
The seals we observed today are juveniles of both sexes. They will stay a few weeks before returning to the sea, then come back in the spring as adults. While at sea, the seals are solitary, not even migrating together, but while on land, they socialize, spar with each other, and group together in the water and on the beach. They don’t eat or drink while at the rookery; their food is found far out at sea.
The Hearst Castle is registered as a National Historic Landmark. Built on a 40,000 acre estate purchased by Hearst’s father, George, it was an ongoing work that took 28 years to construct. There are 165 rooms (and we saw most of them), and 123 acres of gardens and pools. At one time, there was a large zoo on the grounds, with deer, antelope, camels, zebras, kangaroos, ostriches, and more. A few zebras are still in residence.
The Castle is decorated with artwork and furnishings from around the world. Hearst wanted the best things that he could secure for the house: paintings, sculptures, tapestries, vases, and much, much more. Truly, it was excessive.
Many famous people were entertained there: Clark Gable, Winston Churchill, Charles Lindbergh, Calvin Coolidge were among the glitterati.
We were overwhelmed and exhausted by the end of the tour.