Publishing baron William Randolph Hearst was one of the most powerful people of his generation. A ruthless businessman who was once accused of inciting war to sell newspapers, Hearst inspired the forlorn millionaire of Citizen Kane—thanks to a feud with filmmaker Orson Welles—but the guy sure seemed to love his extravagant homes. The most famous is undoubtedly Hearst Castle, a hilltop compound constructed on oceanfront ranch land Hearst had inherited from his mother near San Simeon, Calif. Architect Julia Morgan, who would devote much of her career to the newspaper man's over-the-top projects, was enlisted to design the 90,000-square-foot compound. Once complete, the sprawling personal palace contained 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 entertaining rooms, indoor and outdoor tiled swimming pools, tennis courts, a private movie theater, an airfield, the world's largest private zoo, and 127 acres of gardens. Constructed over a period of nearly thirty years, from 1919 to 1947, and never truly completed, the extravagant private home cost Hearst upwards of $500M in today's dollars. The Hearst Corporation donated the estate to the state of California, which now operates it as a museum.
↑ In 1947, in declining health, Hearst took up residence in Beverly Hills, at the mansion now known as the Beverly House, paying $120K for the privilege. Today the house is listed for quite a bit more, $95M, as longtime owner Leonard Ross seeks to cash out. Hearst's additions to the property are evident, even today, as the colonnade by the pool area, private cinema, and the stunning, wood-paneled, double-height living room. Besides being the site of Hearst's deathbed, the Beverly House is chock full of Hollywood history—like a famous appearance in The Godfather—and even had a brush with Camelot: JFK and Jackie spent their honeymoon here.
↑ Lesser known than Hearst Castle is Wyntoon, Hearst's secluded forest hideaway in the mountains of Northern California. The property once belonged to Hearst's mother's attorney, Charles Stetson Wheeler, who developed a modest fishing camp known as The Bend, along the McCloud River. After visiting the remote compound, Hearst's mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, offered to buy it, but Wheeler declined, instead allowing her to lease a portion of the property for 99 years. On that property, Phoebe constructed an elaborate Gothic-style mansion—designed by architects Bernard Maybeck and Julia Morgan—much to the chagrin of Wheeler, who later acquiesced and sold the entire property to the Hearsts. After Phoebe's death, William Randolph Hearst was annoyed to learn that his cousin had inherited Wyntoon, so he paid her $200K to return the property to the Hearst fold, where it remains today. The eclectic structures on the property would have been joined by an enormous Hearst Castle-style mansion designed by Julia Morgan, but financial difficulty during the Depression prevented Hearst from realizing his second extravagant dream.
Photo via New York Magazine
↑ While Hearst's California homes are the most famous, he also kept several grandiose residences in New York City, the headquarters of his publishing empire. The most impressive of these was this quintuplex—yes, that's five-story—penthouse in The Clarendon at 137 Riverside Drive. The tale of this epic apartment began when Hearst leased the top three floors of the then-rental building in 1907. When that wasn't enough space for the giant-house-happy Hearst, he tried to rent an additional two floors, but the building owner refused. So, in a typical Hearst move, he bought the building and set about transforming those top five floors into an urban version of San Simeon. Ornate carvings, a three-story stone hall, and a giant skylight defined the space.
↑ In California or New York, Hearst was rarely far from his longtime love, the actress Marion Davies, and her coterie of celebrity friends. Hearst decided that even his palatial penthouse was not enough space to house them all and so he built an entire hotel, The Warwick, on 54th Street, which opened in 1927. Davies had her own private floor and the lobby was intentionally small to discourage paparazzi and fans from loitering. It cost Hearst $5M to construct and retained its celebrity cachet long after his death. Silver screen icon Cary Grant lived at the hotel for more than a decade and the Beatles stopped by on their barnstorming first stateside tour.
· Hearst Castle [official site]
· The Legendary Beverly House [Hilton & Hyland]
· Tasteful San Simeon With Backstory Still Offered at "Reduced" Rate [Curbed National]
· Attention Seekers [New York Magazine]
· The Warwick Hotel [official site]