Wednesday, January 5, 2011

San Simeon: Assembly Room

Housed inside the Casa Grande at San Simeon (or "the ranch" as Hearst called it) are the main entertaining spaces. Each night, guests would gather for cocktails (weak and limited, apparently) before dinner in the Assembly Room.Despite an extremely grand facade, the interior floor plan is quite simple, without a cobweb of hallways and vestibules. The main entry leads into a small vestibule seen above, and then directly into the Assembly Room (the living room of the estate). I suppose this is an example of California outdoor living.Most of the estate is composed of European architectural fragments. The ceilings, doorways, fireplaces and really, every piece that you see, began life in another building.Above is the main entry to the room.
The scale of the room is enormous, definitely meant to impress Hearst's guests. You can glimpse a sense of scale from the number of people on my tour group, seen below.You could walk into this fireplace it was so large. Just a cozy little room for pre-dinner cocktails!The room is lined with ancient choir stalls, an interesting, if uncomfortable, choice for additional seating.All of the stone could feel cold, so antique tapestries were brought in to soften both the acoustics and add insulation.
It's hard to remember sometimes that this was a very modern getaway. Radios are hidden within cabinets and guests were here to relax and have fun, as evidenced by this card table with a puzzle in the middle of so much grandeur.
I'm not sure what the fabric is which covers the upholstered pieces in the room -anyone recognize it?
As I said, most of the ceilings throughout the estate are reclaimed from European castles, palaces and monasteries; quite a collection!
See the radio in the cabinet below? Also, a cocktail table for every chair.
Next up, the adjacent Formal Dining Room.
As with all of my San Simeon posts, written permission was kindly granted to post my interior photos of the estate on this blog. Please respect that and do not copy. Thanks!


little augury said...

With that decor-the drinks would need to be weak, It is already staggering. I spy the wonderful fabric with its glorious scale as Scalamandre! pgt

Paul Gervais de Bédée said...

It brings to mind the Isabella Stewart Gardener museum in Boston, which I visited recently.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

LA - good eye! I do really like that fabric, a nice vintage feel and the scale is large enough for the room.
Paul - I never thought of it but you are right (albeit on a larger scale). I LOVE the Gardener museum, haven't been in a few years and it needs a re-visit.

Woody said...

Ugh I would love to stand in a fireplace right now.

Great shots!

quintessence said...

Overwhelming but incredible!! Love "the ranch". Can't imagine living in a such a cavernous place!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

woody -you and me both! BRR

Quintessence - it was incredibly overwhelming -so over the top. Hearst liked grand houses but this place is a bit much, even by his standards.

magnus said...

And although the genesis of the weak and limited cocktails offered at San Simeon is well known to aficionados of Hearst lore or "Golden Age of Hollywood" lore, it might be of interest to those of your readers who are not: Hearst's long-time companion was Ziegfeld Folly's showgirl turned Actress, Marion Davies. Davies was a serious Dipsomaniac, as they used to be called, and Hearst was ever on the lookout monitoring and attempting to limit her prodigious alcohol consumption- to the point of having liquor bottles confiscated from the luggage of arriving guests. Like any self respecting alcoholic, however, Davies was invariably two steps ahead of him: She used to secret bottle of hootch in the toilet tank in the "powder room" to which she would frequently repair with like minded friends to "refresh' themselves.

The Swan said...

Scalamandre CHERUB, especially created for San Simeon and discontinued in 2006. These are the Winter Slipcovers, for underneath is Venetian Green/blue Damask.

This Castle becomes a "HOME" each time one visits and it seems to shrink to cozy rooms other than the Assembly Room...which was the place all congregated.

If one would like to get the real feel of being there, there is a Christmas dinner held each year by the FRIENDS OF HEARST CASTLE, which we attend yearly. Black Tie and glamorous, with a little show in the Theatre-Live...Dinner is in the Refectory, and Cocktails are on the Esplanade under a Clear Tent.

Karena said...

Brought back many memories!! The ceilings, the tapestries, the poool is unbelievable!!

Art by Karena

Robert Webber said...

Completely horrendous, but absolutely fascinating! The room not your coverage of it I hasten to add!
Look forward to the next instalment.
Best Wishes

Topaz said...

As I recall, parts of the castle were unfinished at the time of Hearst's death and were never completed, correct? It's been a few years since my visit. I think the Hearst family retains some use privileges, too. Imagine popping up for a weekend jaunt, just like the old days, and being able to use either the indoor or outdoor pools.

Your blog never fails to inform and fascinate. Thanks for all your work.

le style et la matière said...

I wonder if it would feel different with different lighting than the overhead spots needed for tours.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Swan, thank you! Figures it is discontinued though :-( That christmas dinner sounds spectacular!
Topaz, correct. Parts of the castle are still unfinished. I'll have pictures of that as well in the coming days. The family has the older victorian mansion down the hill for their use still, you pass it on the way up to the castle.
Matiere, I wondered the same thing! Imagine being alone in that vast space with nothing but daylight streaming in, reading a book on that long couch in front of a fire.

teaorwine said...

This resembles the Biltmore Estate in many ways, heavily ornate and more is better! So typical of the Gilded Era and those with much wealth during that time. Great photos.

Anonymous said...

I was so inspired by your resent tip to CA that I did it in reverse over the holidays. San Simeon, Carmel, Filoli, Palace of the legion of honor and even San Francisco city hall. Unfortunatly when I got to Filoli the gate was close and the sign said re-open in Feb. I should have paid attention to the web-sight. Next time.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't live in San Simeon. Did you see how tiny the closet were in the master bedroom. no no no...

Samuel Duckworth said...

I agree completely with Terry that Sometimes being there at just the right time and place can turn you around.
So we need to do our best and wait for the right time to come.