By Patricia H. Kushlis
Years ago when I was growing up in McCloud, a small lumber
The world knows about Hearst’s San Simeon – his ostentatious
mountaintop home overlooking the
San Simeon is all that Wyntoon is not
San Simeon is opulent; it is erotic: almost bordello-like in
Wyntoon – named after a local Indian tribe that had previously inhabited the area – was the property of William Randolph Hearst’s mother Phoebe Apperson Hearst. How she found the land or the site and what inspired her to buy it is beyond me. I’m no Hearst scholar. But she did. Historical records tell us that the first house and other buildings on the property burned to the ground the winter of 1929-30.
Julia Morgan, the architect who designed San Simeon, also
designed the new Wyntoon. Her work featured a tiny unfinished Bavarian village of three gingerbread houses each with its own fairytale motive painted on the
outside walls. Other buildings included a
great house in log cabin style and a lovely unpretentious white clapboard wooden
house with a wide porch that literally extends over the river near its
Across the river is a tall stone castle-like
fortress that could have served as a guardhouse – or watch tower – but – if I
remember correctly – housed a cinema instead.
The estate was to have been much grander and to have included the
remains of a 13th century Spanish Trappist abbey but the depression
hit, the abbey’s stones gathered dust in a warehouse in San Francisco and the
ambitious building project at Wyntoon never took place.
(Photo right above: Storybook House and marble statue by JE Hogin July 1975; Photo left: Waterhouse, bridge across the McCloud River near the bend and stone tower, by WJ Kushlis July 1975)
During World War II, William Randolph Hearst and his mistress Marion Davies lived at Wyntoon because he had been warned that Japanese submarines might attempt to shell San Simeon. War hysteria was rampant then. And after the War, the pair returned to San Simeon where Davies felt far more at home.
Stories from the Past
But this is not what I remember hearing about as a kid because McCloud old timers would reminisce about the parties complete with flamboyant stars in 1930s Hollywood dress and the convoys of cars that stopped for provisions at the town’s company store before proceeding out east to the estate itself.
After Hearst’s death, it was rumored that Wyntoon would become a summer retreat for a local university, but this did not happen. For years the property sat quietly, almost alone – except for the caretakers and the logging trucks that carried the Ponderosa logs to lumber mills - presumably helping to pay the estate’s upkeep. Wyntoon’s property taxes also helped keep McCloud’s schools alive.
The Hearsts have kept Wyntoon for themselves. It belongs to the Hearst Corporation and it was one of the late William Randolph Hearst Junior’s favorite retreats – a place “to think things over.” His niece Patty Hearst – of Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) notoriety – took swimming lessons in the McCloud community pool as a child. When years later and the FBI went searching for her, Wyntoon was a place where they looked.
Today, white water rafters float by this exclusive family retreat and a few photograph houses from the river but the river itself is so shallow that boats from the McCloud Lake or Reservoir below cannot make it upstream. And the family clearly likes it like that. (Photo right: Mt. Shasta from across McCloud Lake, WJ Kushlis July 1975.)