Lady Gaga, pop megastar, is pitching in to endorse and preserve California’s architectural landmark, Hearst Castle, in San Simeon. For three days, the Do What U Want singer will occupy the former residence of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, now a national and California historical landmark.
Her actual project is under wraps, but in exchange for the opportunity to film at Hearst Castle, Gaga is assisting the Hearst Preservation Foundation to tape a public service announcement on the significance of water conservation in California. In addition, she has signed on to cover costs for a $25,000 water stabilization study so that park officials can find methods to improve the Hearst property’s water supply system.
Hearst Castle’s story began in 1865 when George Hearst bought 40,000 acres of land. When his son, William Randolph Hearst, inherited the acreage, it had expanded in excess of 250,000. The young Hearst envisioned a haven, La Cuesta Encatada (Enchanted Hill), and in 1947, he had his retreat. Hearst Castle boasts 165 rooms with 127 acres of terraces, gardens, pools and walkways. It was constructed according to Hearst’s specifications and to display his spectacular European and Mediterranean art collection.
The castle has two pools, The Neptune and The Roman. Embellished with Vermont marble and 17th century Italian bas-reliefs, the Neptune underwent renovations over the years. This final version holds 345,000 gallons of water.
Hearst’s tiled indoor Roman Pool is breathtaking with vaulted arches in blue and gold glass tiles, mosaics in blue with “stylized star patterns” overlay the roofs and dome. Adorned with Roman heroes, gods and goddesses, the pool is styled after ancient Roman baths.
However, the castle’s extravagant beauty with gardens and fountains are in jeopardy with the one of the worst droughts that California has seen. Visitors to this landmark will soon be brushing dust off their shoes instead of gazing into tranquil blue pools.
The springs that supply the landmark’s water are running “at just one-sixth normal,” according to the San Luis Obispo Coast District of State Parks superintendent, Nick Franco. In a normal year, 285,000 gallons of water flows from the springs; however, with the drought, only 47,000 gallons flow each day. The amount of water that typically fills the reservoirs are only one-third full, and not enough to sustain Hearst Castle through the summer months.
The Hearst Preservation Foundation had to make changes. They stopped “topping off” the leaky Neptune Pool that was losing 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of water daily through cracks in the pool lining and plumbing. The State Parks are altering the irrigation system so that the water ordinarily meant for the pool will slowly flow from the marble-lined basin onto the landscape instead.
The Roman Pool will be left untouched as it does not leak, and because it is indoors, there is little “moisture loss through evaporation.”
The castle’s six fountains situated in the expansive Hearst gardens that once provided ambiance to a visitor’s stroll have gone silent and dry. The gardens are also undergoing a face lift as they try to work out what perennials can endure with little water and what ones cannot. Franco stated that they are concentrating on “how we can nurse it along.” By this time of year, state parks start planting “thousands of annuals.” However, this year, the key is water conservation. Moreover, the castle needs to meet State Park regulations by maintaining 200,000 gallons of water on the grounds in case of fire.
Over the years, many rich, famous and beautiful people have stayed at the grand Hearst Castle including Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Winston Churchill, Irving Cobb, Howard Hughes and Charles Lindbergh, but Lady Gaga may be their first superstar.
Lady Gaga is inserting her artistic talent to the castle collections in Gaga style, and also speaking up about compulsory water conservation for California. Visitors should give Lady Gaga applause because with her contribution, one day again they will be able to take in the complete magnificence of Hearst Castle, pools and all.
by Dawn Levesque