Hearst Castle is known for many different things, but perhaps the most known is the wine cellar and the zoo that was once a huge attraction for its visitors. In 1865 George Hearst purchased 40,000 acres of ranch land and by the time that his only son William inherited the land it had grown to 25,000 acres. Hearst castle was originally known as “Camp Hill” where people could come and enjoy camping trips with family and friends. They were not necessarily roughing it however. They had separate tents for dining and sleeping, and there was also very comfortable accommodations including small beds and comfortable seating, but after a while they decided that they were tired of camping, and they wanted to build something that would be even more memorable. By 1947, Hearst had built an estate with 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, pools, and gorgeously decorated walkways.
The wine cellar was added on to the basement of Casa Grande; the main house located at Hearst Castle, and was located below the north end of the Assembly Room. This was not anywhere near the main kitchen and was in fact very inconvenient. But the location was critical to the wine. Wine need to be stored at 45-60 degrees Fahrenheit, and by having the wine in this location, they did not need to use as many cooling equipment. Hearst enjoyed wine very much, but he was by no means a heavy drinker. He was known only to have a glass of wine with meals, and rarely any more than that. Although he was not a heavy drinker, he still opposed the prohibition of manufacturing, selling or transporting of liquor in the United States, and he continued to serve alcohol to his guests throughout the prohibition. However, he has iron vault doors put on the cellar and at all times kept the vault locked to keep any wine being stolen. However, the wine cellar isn’t the only thing that kept people coming to Hearst Castle.
Hearst created the largest private zoo known. The constantly changing collection of different animals was first established in 1923. This provided guest with a very rare visual display because most of the animals were at free range of the ranch and there were more than 300 different species of animals that passed through Hearst Castle’s property, so you were sure to see something extravagant. The dismantling of the zoo began when William ran into some financial instability and was forced to cut expenses on the ranch. Most of the animals were placed by the death of William Hearst in 1951, but many of the animals were permitted to free range on the ranch and you can often see zebra grazing on the hills of Hearst Castle along Highway 1. This is a wonderful and historic place to visit, and there is always something to see. No matter how young or old you are, you will enjoy learning about all the things that happened at Hearst Castle. In the words of Lord John Julius Norwich “Hearst Castle is a palace in every sense of the word”. Hearst Castle is a memorable visit worth taking.