Wyntoon – McCloud, California - Atlas Obscura

McCloud, California

Wyntoon

This lesser known Hearst estate is a fairytale village built from the stolen bones of historic European buildings. 

While famed publisher William Randolph Hearst’s most famous architectural jewel was his castle in San Simeon, California, he also built a semi-secret Bavarian-styled estate using materials he stole out of Europe on land he had to wrestle from his own cousin. 

The area known as Wyntoon in the northern tip of California has existed as a remote hunting and fishing center as long as it has been inhabited by outsiders at all. While the lodges that were originally built in the area were of modest, rustic proportions, portions of the land were eventually purchased by Phoebe Hearst (mother of William) who changed all of that. The elder Hearst built a massive European-styled castle on her portion of the land in direct opposition to the deal she had worked out with the original owners.

When she died, Phoebe willed massive land holdings to her son William, but Wyntoon was left to his cousin Anne Flint, much to the chagrin of William himself. Never one to not get what he wanted, Hearst withheld valuable artworks from his cousin in an effort to get ahold of the estate, and eventually reached an acrimonious settlement where he bought the land from the embittered woman. 

A few years after acquiring the land, Phoebe Hearst’s castle burnt to the ground thanks to a kitchen fire. Undeterred, Hearst decided to build a bigger castle using historic materials taken right from Europe to give it a medieval feel. The publishing magnate had men dismantle and ship a 700-year-old monastery from Spain despite having no legal grounds to do so. He also had the remnants of an ancient barn he had previously acquired brought to the site. Realizing that his original castle plan would not work, Hearst shifted his vision to the construction of a Bavarian-style village comprised of a number of smaller structures. Thus quaint (by Hearst standards) cottages were built with names such as The Cinderella House and The Fairy House, each one invoking traditional “black forest” fairytales. 

Today the strange village still stands and remains the private property of the Hearst Corporation. The public is not allowed on the property but intrepid kayakers can catch a glimpse from the the Upper McCloud River. 

Know Before You Go

Wyntoon is privately owned and closed to visitors. The only way to see it is to float down the McCloud, most easily done in a kayak.