Hacienda del Pozo de Verona

707 Country Club Circuit, Pleasanton, Alameda County, California

Completed in 1898, for Mrs Phoebe Hearst (1842-1919), the widow of Senator George Hearst (1820-1891), though it was actually commissioned in secret and against her wishes by their only son, William Randolph Hearst. Named for the ornate 15th century wellhead/fountain that William imported from Verona in Italy, the 53-room Hacienda thirty miles east of San Francisco combined three architectural styles: Mission, Pueblo and Moorish to resemble the 18th century Spanish fortified villas around Santa Fe, Mexico. Standing on a ranch of 1,900-acres and visible for miles around, it took four years to build to the plans of the original architect, A.C. Schweinfurth, and with later additions completed in 1910 by Julia Morgan, the architect behind Phoebe's son's colossus at San Simeon, Hearst Castle. It was later a Dude Ranch and Country Club....

This house is best associated with...

George Hearst

George Hearst, Prospector, Mine Owner & U.S. Senator from California


William Randolph Hearst

William Randolph Hearst, Newspaper & Media Magnate of California


Phoebe (Apperson) Hearst

Mrs Phoebe Elizabeth (Apperson) Hearst


Phoebe was twenty years younger than her husband, George, who came to California with the Gold Rush and died having served in the U.S. Senate and leaving her with a fortune of $19 million. Among the several properties acquired by her husband was this 1,900-acre ranch on Pleasanton Ridge that enjoyed panoramic views over the Amador-Livermore Valley and on which he built a hunting lodge in either 1866 or 1886, depending on whose account you read! By the time George died in 1891, Phoebe (who'd started life as a school teacher in Missouri) had already gained a reputation as a generous and progressively-minded philanthropist, notably towards improving the lives of impoverished children. By the 1890s, her intention had been to turn the ranch at Pleasanton into a farm for orphans.

However, while she was away, her less than public-spirited son, William Randolph Hearst, not only commissioned Schweinfurth to design the Hacienda, but then went ahead with building it with neither her permission, nor her knowledge. When she returned and discovered what he had done with her property, she was furious. However, as the work was almost complete she seized possession and finished it to Schweinfurth's designs. But, she never forgave him, and he never occupied the house nor did he have the funds to start a similar project - Hearst Castle - until she died twenty years later in 1919.

Before 1902, Phoebe lived at 1400 New Hampshire Avenue in Washington D.C., and made the Hacienda her country home, complete with stables of thoroughbreds and a pack of hounds. It was Phoebe's passion for collecting antiques from her trips to Europe that rubbed off on her only son and, as he would do, she too crammed her homes full of valuable antiques. The rooms at the Hacienda were large and airy, "hung with richest tapestries. Splendid Turkish rugs are on the floor; rare Indian baskets from California, soft-toned Navajo blankets and quaint old lanterns hang from the heavy exposed rafters. There are old carved chests, rare bits of bric-a-brac, pictures and statuary".

Phoebe enjoyed entertaining and thought nothing of hosting weekend house parties for 40/50 friends at a time. She particularly enjoyed giving masquerade balls in the gardens and kept a room bulging at the seams with literally hundreds of various period costumes for those who came unprepared, or for simply springing an impromptu ball on her guests! The list of those who enjoyed Phoebe's hospitality at the Hacienda was said to have included royalty, artists, composers, presidents, and movie stars "from far and wide".

There were several outhouses including a 13-room "Boys House" for her five grandsons, not only filled with toys, but fully staffed with governesses, tutors and nurses too! In 1924, her son sold the property and it became the Castlewood Country Club. The Depression eventually took its toll and in 1940 it was bought by John and Edith Marshall who renovated it and ran it as a Dude Ranch until 1952. From then it reverted back to being a country club until the entire Hacienda - except for just one room, the Music Room - was lost to fire in 1969. The club, which is still going strong today, was partially rebuilt but not to the original plans of Phoebe's Hacienda, and all of Julia Morgan's work is lost. 
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 13/03/2020 and last updated on 09/11/2022.
Image from Phoebe A. Hearst, Digital History Project, by Mabel Clare Craft; Foundations of Anthropology at the University of California; Vintage Designs: Interior of Hacienda del Pozo de Verona; On the Edge of the World: Four Architects in San Francisco at the Turn of the Century (1998), by Richard W. Longstreth; Hearst's Pleasanton Ties Deep (East Bay Times, 2005), by Barry Schrader; Lady of the House, by Susan E. Davis in Diablo Magazine


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