Explore the Legacy of Hearst’s Ancient Stones

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Make a Day Trip Out of Hearst’s Obsession With Dismantling Antiquities

William Randolph Hearst was a San Francisco born media mogul during the turn of the last century. He was obsessed with collecting antiquities including art, furniture, and architecture. Today, plenty of his collections are available to be seen and explored both here in San Francisco and throughout Northern California. Last week’s completion of the chapter house at the Abbey of New Clairvaux inspired us to reconnect with Hearst’s legacy.   We at Reynolds-Sebastiani encourage you to explore these nearby gardens, grounds, and buildings:


The vineyard and chapter house at the Abbey of New Clairvaux

See the fruition of Hearst’s vision of rebuilding using stones from 16th century Spanish monastery. Though many of the stones were used already by San Francisco Parks Commission, most of the key pieces including the ceiling vault stones remained. The stones were fit back together using domestic limestone blocks to fill in the missing pieces.


You’ll want to leave early for this trip so you’re sure to get your day’s worth. The trip is about 3 hours north of San Francisco in Vina, California – peaceful isolation is part of the draw. The Abby welcomes visitors for day trips or for extended retreats. While you are there,  stroll the orchards and vineyards, visit the wine tasting room and welcome center, explore the newly reconstructed chapter house, or recharge in the church sanctuary. Leave the madness of the city for the day(or longer) and restore yourself.


The Japanese Tea Gardens at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park


Wisteria and waterfall at the San Francisco Botanical Garden


[/one_half][one_third]Hearst’s stones were incorporated into the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate park. Though a world away from their original context, they retain the serene atmosphere of their origins in the abbey. Find them in their new interpretation as stepping stones and retaining walls.[/one_third]


The Japanese Tea Garden is open daily. Reflect on the tranquility and harmony of its natural order. The tea house offers traditional tea ceremonies and is the birthplace of the American interpretation of the fortune cookie. Bring your family when they visit- perfect for your mom or grandmother.



Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park

San Francisco’s Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Garden is a truely amazing garden and deserves a visit even even if it had no monastery stones.  However the stones are an added bonus. Unlike the formally rebuilt chapter house, the stonework in the botanical gardens has a decidedly ruined vibe. We love ruins and recreating ‘ruined’ stonework in our own garden designs so we think the botanical garden’s stonework is pretty hip!

We love the Botanical Garden and encourage everyone to go check it out.  The gardens are constantly changing – you could go once a week and still not take it all in. All the more reason to go!

Monastery stones abound! Look for them in the entrance garden, the alpine and library gardens, the rhododendron pavilion, the succulent and cactus gardens, native garden, fragrance garden, African garden, and demonstration gardens- virtually everywhere! Just go and you will find them and more. Since the botanical gardens are free to San Francisco residents, locals have no reason not to go. Make use of this local treasure!


Demonstration Garden


Rhododendron Pavilion


Rhododendron Pavilion


Bench in Library Garden


Raised Bed at Library Garden


Library Reflection Garden



Alpine Garden beyond the Entrance Garden


Raised beds and stairs in Succulent Garden


Succulent Garden.


Within Golden Gate park ( outside of the boundaries of the Tea and Botanical Gardens) look for more monastery stones at the Druid Circle, hidden in the trees of the Academy of Sciences or accenting McLaren’s monument.


McLaren Monument


Druid Circle


Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California

Hearst Castle Neptune pool featuring an ancient Roman temple as a pool house.

Really wanna ‘go there’ and make a trip out of seeing Heart’s ancient stones and gardens? Go to Hearst Castle.  Hearst’s obsession was realized to its fullest at his personal home in San Simeon, California.  Hearst collected antiquities from all over Europe, not just art and furniture, but rooms and entire buildings too. He set out to remodel a family ranch used originally for camping into an opulent expression of his wealth and love of antiquities.

The home – a compound really – features the stones of an ancient Roman temple reinterpreted as a pool house. The home now welcomes visitors to see the collections of art, architecture, and grounds. Stay the night in San Luis Obispo at the  Madonna Inn– which also features some of Hearst’s ancient marble- and hop over to Hearst Castle for the day . Take your sweetie for a weekend trip!



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