Hearst: Lord of San Simeon

By Oliver Carlson; Ernest Sutherland Bates | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX
Lord of San Simeon

ALONG the sea and mountains, symbolically almost midway between the middle-class paradise of Los Angeles and half-Fascist San Francisco lies the already legendary estate of San Simeon. In the days of Hearstpère it was an ordinary ranch of a mere 40,000 acres undistinguished from others save by its beauty of location -- a part, together with the Santa Rosa and Piedra Blanca ranches, of George Hearst's large cattle range. On those hills William Randolph Hearst as a boy was bred to the saddlei he hunted in the forests and fished in the coves; his cold blue eyes appraised his father's possessions and saw that they were good; but during the years of active manhood his interests lay elsewhere. San Simeon, though its acreage was many times enlarged, was not treated as a place of permanent habitation, was not developed; it was allowed to remain a pleasant wilderness to which its owner could retire from the world occasionally and, aided by a moderately luxurious camping outfit, renew his childhood's early intercourse with "nature." Not until the twenties, when his increasing interest in Hollywood led him to recognize in the meretricious charms of the cinema the perfect realization of his own pseudo-ésthetic ideals, did the notion come to him of converting honest San Simeon into a fabulously extravagant moving-picture realm, a magical but ultra-modern Venusberg.

The spacious, cleanly beauty of distances, of wind-swept hills and soughing pines, of green meadows and tinkling waterthese are the inherited treasures of San Simeon. And into this

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