Rating: 4 out of 5.

That it took 28 years for William Randolph Hearst to oversee work on his residence that still stayed unfinished long after says a lot – about either his persistence or his stubbornness. After traveling around the world and scouring roofs and floors and artifacts for his ‘castle’, including ancient Roman floor mosaics for his entry foyer, which amazingly were in actual use during his time, and Egyptian antiquity sculptures just for display in his garden, the result was a mishmash of styles and themes where he was a curator in residence – for a huge house that was both museum and conversation piece. From my perspective, the estate’s main house was visibly grand yet very nouveau riche gauche, concocted by someone who senselessly threw money at random stuff and had them disassembled, shipped, and reassembled thousands of miles away. Same goes for the outdoor pool, nicknamed Neptune, based on a Greek/Roman theme that had no sense of place in early 20th century California. The rest of the estate however, especially the gardens, are beautifully done and it was all I could do to keep from being envious about the blooms and gigantic succulents all over. The entire estate is an amazing 250,000 acres of dramatic rolling hills and ocean views under California’s frequently perfect spring weather, very much a kingdom fit for a king. Reading up on Hearst I can’t say I’m an admirer,  not even close, but anyone who would donate such significant largesse to the state, rather than hand it down to any of his six children, is probably not bad at all.


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