The 50th anniversary of Hearst Castle becoming a state park has inspired the movement to increase community awareness and involvement in the landmark, ensuring William Randolph Hearst’s legacy carries on for another generation of visitors.
“The guiding principle has been community access, interest and exposure,” said Carol Schreiber, executive director of Friends of Hearst Castle. “The anniversary has spurred more community involvement.”
Friends of Hearst Castle, is using the anniversary of the property being opened to tours to show off Hearst’s collections of art and antiques.
Hearst Castle was built by newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst in 1919, designed by San Francisco architect Julia Morgan. It was donated to the state of California in December 1957 by the Hearst Corporation, controlled by Hearst’s family members and business partners after his death in 1951. Hearst Castle was officially opened as a state park on June 2, 1958.
Starting in June, Hearst Castle began offering a series of special events designed to showcase lesser known facts and details about the man and the castle.
An exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, called Hearst the Collector, features the art collected by Hearst. It went on display in November and continues through Feb. 1.
Friends of Hearst Castle will be chartering a bus group of tourists from the Central Coast to the museum to view the exhibit.
To secure more funds for Friends of Hearst Castle, a two-night stay for two people at the castle was auctioned on eBay. The package, which was purchased by a couple from the Bay Area for $27,666, includes a stay for them inside the castle for two nights, as well as for eight of their friends to stay at a nearby ranch. One of the evening’s events includes a catered dinner at the property, followed by a silent film in the theater, concluding with brandy and cigars terrace.
Schreiber said the guests can choose to attend the dinner in attire from the 1930s as well.
“It’s an entire Hearst Castle experience,” she said. “We hoped it would generate more revenue than it did this year.” Schreiber noted that when the auction ended in September at the annual Enchanted Evening dinner, the economy had just taken a big nose dive. “We’re just hoping to grow it next year.”
The anniversary celebrations are scheduled to end on June 6. The list of final events includes an art show scheduled for the first weekend in June. Some artists will be invited to paint on the hilltop, with a sale later in the day. Portions of the proceeds will benefit Friends of Hearst Castle. The organization hopes the festivities become an annual event, and Schreiber also anticipates that it will fund a summer art program with young artists being mentored by professionals.
In addition, there are talks with author Victoria Kastner to have a signing in connection with the release of her book on Hearst Castle in May.
An activity book is also in the works targeted towards children in an attempt introduce them to the castle.
While Hearst Castle has consistently pulled in about 775,000 visitors annually for the last several years, Schreiber said it’s down from as many as a million.
But a drop in tourists hasn’t softened the finances of the Friends of Hearst Castle.
“We’ve had an absolutely banner year,” Schreiber said, pointing out that the annual holiday feast event, held on Dec. 6, was sold out six months in advance. The event was limited to 88 people at $1,000 per plate.
The increase in involvement is important to the continued tradition of Hearst Castle, according to Schreiber.
“It’s a castle in our own backyard,” she said, “and we’re using the 50th to launch that message.”
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