"Something a little different "
In April of 1919, Julia Morgan and her client, William Randolph Hearst, met in her San Francisco office to begin the design and planning for San Simeon. After much deliberation and consultation of their respective voluminous libraries of architectural books, Morgan produced sketches favoring the Spanish Colonial architecture that characterized the 1915 expositions in San Francisco and San Diego, elaborations of the Mission Revival style popular in California for the previous 25 years. But Hearst was also quick to note that he "wished for something a little different from what other people are doing in California," which ultimately led to the mingling of styles and periods that is San Simeon.
Morgan's classical Beaux-Arts training, joined with her engineering degree and expertise with reinforced concrete, made her the ideal architect for this demanding commission, which absorbed both architect and client from 1919 until the mid-1940s.
Morgan designed the main building (La Casa Grande), and guesthouses (Casa del Mar, Casa del Monte, and Casa del Sol), which were linked by an esplanade and garden terraces. Also added were indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a movie theater with a small stage, tennis courts, a billiard room, wine cellar, two libraries, a private zoo and aviary, dog kennels, landing strip and airplane hangar, Thoroughbred horse ranch and miles of bridle paths, and a five-mile pergola. No matter how large his estate grew over the succeeding years, Hearst usually referred to the place simply as "the ranch."
Morgan painstakingly plotted and re-plotted the buildings and grounds to accommodate her client's objectives: undisturbed native oaks, a large main terrace and walkways between buildings, splendid views, and superb settings for Hearst’s burgeoning collections of art and antiquities. To Hearst's favorite art dealers, Morgan wrote:
Incredibly, there were times when Hearst's mammoth warehouses failed him and it was necessary to make reproductions of the art, furniture or ornamentation they envisioned for a particular room. Here Morgan also excelled, for she had contacts abroad to locate the artisans skilled in wood, iron, tile, stone and glass.