A visit to Hearst Castle

(CBS News) We greet you from Hearst Castle, overlooking the Pacific Ocean near San Simeon California. Over the years, this spectacular home has played host to statesmen and moguls and Hollywood stars. This morning, it's playing host to us, for our annual "By Design" issue.

It's called "La Cuesta Encantada" - the Enchanted Hill.

Enchanted . . . and breathtaking. Perched high above the Pacific coastline of San Simeon, this was the estate of William Randolph Hearst: Newspaper tycoon, movie mogul, and one of the twentieth century's most influential men,

Hearst called San Simeon his "little hideaway."

The hilltop is filled with gardens, guest houses and the magnificent Neptune Pool. Its crowning glory is Casa Grande - a castle in the Spanish style.

It was all designed by architect Julia Morgan - the first FEMALE graduate of the prestigious Ecole Des Beaux Arts in Paris. Construction began in 1919, and continued non-stop for another 28 years.

Through it all, Hearst's guests enjoyed hospitality as immense as his wealth and power.

San Simeon was the place-to-be for Hollywood's elite - though there were grumblings about Mr. Hearst's strict policy of only one cocktail before dinner.

Dazzling though the REAL Hearst Castle may be . . . it's had to compete for nearly 70 years now with the alternate reality created by a legendary film director: Orson Welles' 1941 classic "Citizen Kane" was a thinly-veiled, and damning, caricature of Hearst and of his castle lifestyle.

A largely inaccurate one, says Castle director Hoyt Fields: "This was a very bright, a very lively place for people to come. There are just no similarities as far as I can feel, between Charles Foster Kane and William Randolph Hearst."

It seems that the reality of life at San Simeon was truly more vivid than any tale spun from fiction.

The Neptune pool at Hearst Castle, the legendary home built by publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst in San Simeon, Calif. on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2008.
The Neptune pool at Hearst Castle.
AP Photo/Dan Steinberg
And the enchantment of this hilltop retreat is still very much alive to those who come and visit this place, so high above the sea and so close to the sky.

Hearst insisted on calling his dining room "The Refectory" . . . the word for the dining hall in a monastery.

Dinner wasn't usually a fancy affair - food grown here on the ranch, ketchup and mustard right out of the bottle.

The bell towers at Hearst Castle represent music-making on a giant scale.

From his Gothic study, Hearst - they called him "The Chief" - ran his media empire. Its ceiling mimics a Spanish Gothic residence. Windows provide light; bookcases, a sense of enclosure.

This is one of the guest cottages at San Simeon. With four full-sized bedrooms, small it's not.

For all its grandeur, Hearst Castle was, at its soul, a love nest . . . a refuge for its owner . . . and his mistress, actress Marion Davies.

American newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst is shown with Marion Davies in Bad Nauheim, Germany on Aug. 13, 1931.
American newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst is shown with Marion Davies in Bad Nauheim, Germany on Aug. 13, 1931.
AP Photo
While Hearst's wife lived back in New York, he lived openly with Davies for more than 30 years until his death in 1951.

"Very scandalous, you know," said Hearst Castle director Hoyt Fields. "I mean, you think about the time. Mrs. Hearst was not unaware of what was going on. It worked for that situation. And to be with someone for that period of time is a definite love story."

A love that clearly went two ways. When Hearst invited Hollywood moguls to his Castle, a screening of Marion's latest film was often on the program - his way of promoting her movie career.

And, when Hearst's fortunes sagged during the Depression, it was Marion who presented him with a check for one million dollars, drawn from her own savings.

(Left: Hearst and Davies are shown in Bad Nauheim, Germany on Aug. 13, 1931.)

Their mutual love was perhaps the biggest reason why Hearst tried so hard to kill Orson Welles' movie "Citizen Kane," angered as he was by the way Davies was portrayed. Fields said that according to Davies' biography Welles extended an apology to her.

In the end, the love between William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies survived Welles' film . . . and though all of them are now long gone . . . the Castle Hearst built to love endures.

Upon his death in 1951 at the age of 88 he was interred at the family mausoleum near San Francisco . . . over 160 miles from his San Simeon enclave.

For more info:

Hearst Castle

To watch a video tour of the gardens at Hearst Castle click on the video player below.

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