Castlewood History

The Hearsts

George and Phoebe Hearst purchased part of the old Bernal Rancho located southwest of Pleasanton, which also contained the Alisal Rancheria with about 125  Ohlone Indians still residing there.  The Hearsts chose the property for its beautiful setting, views, climate, and as a place to escape the cold and foggy summers of San Francisco.  In 1886 the Hearsts moved to Washington D.C. when George became one of California's Senators.  After his death in 1891, Phoebe moved back to the Bay Area to be near her son who was now running the Daily (later, San Francisco) Examiner that his father acquired in 1880.  William had begun building a mansion at Castlewood without notifying his mother.  When she discovered what he was doing, she took over the project and commissioned architect Julia Hunt Morgan to complete her Hacienda.  (Ms. Morgan later became the architect for the Hearst Castle at San Simeon. The Hacienda was a 53-room palatial mansion of Mediterranean and California Mission architecture, which she named La Hacienda del Pozo de Verona. (see the link above for a full description of the mansion.)

Western Pacific railroad also built "Verona Station," a train stop in the valley so that the victorian elite and other guests could visit with Mrs. Hearst at the Hacienda. she would frequently host groups of 40 or 50 friends for a weekend. Over the years the list of guests included royalty from Europe, famous artists and composers, presidents, and movie stars. Phoebe was kind and generous to her Pleasanton neighbors, and hired many locals to work at the ranch. 

After her death in 1919, her son, William Randolph Hearst, maintained the property for a few years, then sold it in 1924 to a group of businessmen who turned into a Country Club and added two golf courses, one on the hillside in 1926, then one on the valley in 1948.  At that time, the acreage became known as Castlewood Country Club and lots in the area were sold primarily as second homes for wealthy residents of San Francisco and Oakland.  Today, homes on "The Hill" are considered some of the prime real estate in the Pleasanton area. 

The Hacienda served as the Castlewood Clubhouse from 1925 until it was destroyed by fire in 1969.  A new clubhouse, built in the style of Mrs. Hearst’s Hacienda del Pozo de Verona, stands on the same spot preserving some of the original steps.  Two other buildings on the estate still remain.  The  dressing rooms at the swimming pool and a two story structure were once used as apartments.



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