San Simeon History
Learn about the rich history of San Simeon in the following paragraphs.
The Start of San Simeon
Founded in 1836, San Simeon was first established when the San Miguel Mission was secularized and divided into three distinct ranches: Piedras Blancas, Santa Rosa, and San Simeon.
Whaling and San Simeon’s Growth
Less than 20 years later, the town soon became known for whaling. A whaling station was established in the natural harbor at San Simeon Point around the grey whale migration, which can still be witnessed today. San Simeon’s high vantage points and towering coastal bluffs proved to be advantageous for whale watchers. Whale watchers would signal the signs of whales so they could be harvested. San Simeon grew during the whaling period, with twenty two families settling in the area.
The Rise of Hearst
By the 1860s, a drought left San Simeon with inadequate grazing land for livestock. Rancheros had no choice but to sell their land. Almost simultaneously, the whaling industry had declined. This left the town without the employment and economic boom it had experienced years earlier. Because of these events, George Heart began to buy up land around the area. He eventually became the rightful owner of more than 40,000 acres.
The Hearst Family Legacy
After George Hearst passed away in 1891, followed by wife Phoebe in 1919, their only son, William Randolph Hearst, inherited all the land his father had purchased. His ownership has been the key reason San Simeon remains so intact and pristine to this day. The Hearst family’s main concern was to protect and enhance the area. Their efforts also brought in more jobs and attracted visitors from all over the world, including Calvin Coolidge, George Bernard Shaw, and Winston Churchill. However, it wasn’t until the completion of Hearst Castle that the town of San Simeon really came to life, hosting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Hearst Family Land Donation
Following William Randolph Hearst’s passing in 1951, the Hearst Corporation began donating plots of land. This land would later become the area’s state parks, beaches and preservation sites.
San Simeon Today
Today, San Simeon remains beautifully preserved and completely breathtaking. Hearst Castle is the area’s largest draw, but for those who discover the town of San Simeon, they are lured by the immaculate beauty and unspoiled sights.
San Simeon Historical Timeline
- 1836: San Miguel Mission secularized and divided into three ranchos: Piedras Blancas, Santa Rosa and San Simeon.
- 1852: Whaling station established at San Simeon Point
- 1874: Piedras Blancas Light Station is built by the U.S. Government
- 1878: Whaling industry in decline. The Bay View, San Simeon’s first hotel is constructed
- 1914: Sebastian Family purchases general store, and retains ownership of it to this day
- 1919: Construction on Hearst Castle begins
- 1937: San Simeon State Beach opened as a day-use facility
- 1937: California Highway 1 is completed, opening San Simeon’s majesty to visitors around the world
- 1947: Construction of Hearst Castle is stopped
- 1951: William Randolph Hearst passes away. Hearst Corporation creates William Randolph Hearst Memorial Park through the donation of a large plot of land
- 1957: San Simeon’s famous pier is constructed, one of four recreational piers in San Luis Obispo County and one of less than 50 in California
- 1958: Hearst Corporation gave Hearst Castle to State of California
- 1964: San Simeon State Beach converted into a seaside overnight park
- 1971: State Department of Parks and Beaches takes ownership of Hearst Memorial Park