Nov 29, 2013 8:00 AM by Jeanette Trompeter
Mention San Simeon and the Hearst name, and this is likely the first image that comes to mind is the castle. But long before it came to be, the ranch was here. And still is.
William Randolph Hearst's father, George Hearst, bought the land in 1865. For 150 years, it has been the California roots of the Hearst family. When William Randolf Hearst referred to "The Ranch", even once the Castle was built, it was part of the picture in his mind. "He rode all the time. He spent a lot of time at the top of the hill, but he spent a lot of time here running the ranch." says Victoria Kastner, author of the new book documenting the history of the ranch, "Hearst Ranch: Family, Land, and Legacy.
At it's height, is was 250-thousand acres. Today the Hearst family still owns 82-thousand and it's still a working cattle ranch. Nestled in the flatlands below the castle are a dozen Julia Morgan ranch buildings generations of Hearsts and Hearst employees have called home. "There was a wonderful cowboy who worked and lived here on the ranch...his name was Jake Villa and he was a walking encyclopedia. And when he died it was one of those revelations I think we all have." says Kastner.
The death of George Hearst Junior in 2012 was another reminder that you can't always refresh your memory through those who lived the stories.
So now this private side of the Hearst story is documented in the book by Kastner, who received a lot of help researching the history from Steve Hearst and the Hearst family, employees and ranch managers.
Kastner has been studying Hearst history for almost 35 years and admits even she knew very little about this side of the story it when she took on the project. "Because they dont' see it as a museum." says Kastner referring to how the Hearsts feel about the ranch. "Because they're just doing what they've always done."
For first time we see the inside of what was really the first Hearst Castle. The Senators house built by George Hearst Senior in 1878. It's filled with family artifacts, artwork and heirlooms but it's kick off your boots and get comfortable kind of place, and that's just what ranch managers, family and friends have done for decades.
The bunkhouse, built by Julia Morgan in 1937 is still where family and friend gather for holidays, business meetings and weekends away. It is also where Steve Hearst, likes to stay when he's here.
The fact so many Hearsts still think of this place as home is what makes it special today. It could have been so much different. "Because there was water here. There was a harbor here. We would be a metropolis. San Luis Obispo County, could be a giant shipping center." saus Kastner talking about the multiple attempts that were made to develop the ranch. It was a 2005 deal with the federal government, that preserves the coastline from development and insures this working ranch will continue to be just that for generations to come. "There's a legacy that continues..." says Kastner. "It's not over. It still goes on." she says.
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