The Federalist-style home at 1154 W. Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead will never be confused with Xanadu, the grand castle at the heart of Orson Welles’ classic film “Citizen Kane.”
It does, however, share a connection.
The Academy Award-winning 1941 film portrayed a fictionalized character loosely based on media mogul William Randolph Hearst. As such, central character Charles Foster Kane’s enormous mansion in the film, Xanadu, was inspired by Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. Hearst lived in the Julia Morgan-designed Mediterranean estate from 1919 to 1947.
The total square footage of Hearst Castle is close to 90,000. Composed of several buildings, it includes the 60,000-square-foot Casa Grande.
The house at 1154 W. Paces Ferry, by contrast, is just shy of 4,000 square feet. It has three bedrooms and four bathrooms. I don’t even want to guess how many bedrooms and bathrooms Hearst Castle has, but “a lot” comes to mind.
The Atlanta home was built by Randolph Apperson Hearst for his bride, Catherine Campbell Hearst, who was from Atlanta. Originally from Kentucky, Campbell attended Washington Seminary, which is now Westminster, and made her debut with the Atlanta Debutante Club.
Randolph Apperson Hearst was the son of William Randolph Hearst.
The younger Hearst came to Atlanta as the publisher of the Atlanta Georgian, one of the many newspapers his father owned around the country. William Randolph Hearst purchased the paper in 1912 and brought his distinct style of sensational journalism to the region. Randolph Apperson was one of his four children, and as such had to come up through the ranks of the family empire.
While the paper ultimately failed, the younger Hearst met his wife while in Atlanta.
William Randolph Hearst would have an impact on the city that resonates to this day through Oglethorpe University.
The state opened Oglethorpe University in 1838 in a community near Milledgeville. It closed during the Civil War and did not reopen in that location. Instead, in 1913, it was re-chartered in Atlanta. William Randolph Hearst became an early supporter of the relaunched university, according to Franklin Garrett in his book “Atlanta and Environs.”
“Mr. Hearst, whose interest in Atlanta dated from 1912, when he bought the Georgian from F.L. Selly, was an early benefactor of Oglethorpe,” Garrett wrote. “In 1913, he gave $5,000 to help found the college. His support continued. In 1927, he gave $25,000, and in 1930, $100,000. On May 22, 1927, incidentally, he paid his last visit to Atlanta to receive an honorary LL.D. from the school. But he kept up his interest. In 1936, he gave 400 acres of land including Silver Lake, the name of which was subsequently changed to Phoebe Lake, in honor of Hearst’s Mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst. The gifts continued — in 1946, $100,000 and in 1947, a like amount.”
One of the original buildings on Oglethorpe’s Brookhaven campus also bears the name Phoebe Hearst.
In all, adjusted for inflation, William Randolph Hearst game more $10 million to Oglethorpe. His son, Jack, entered the university in 1929 according to a newspaper article from that year.
Randolph and Catherine Hearst moved to California following World War II, where they raised their five daughters: Catherine, Virginia, Patty, Anne and Victoria. The early home on West Paces Ferry is for sale for $1.6 million.
It was once a grander estate, as was the case with many of the homes along West Paces. The corner it now sits on is a cul-de-sac sloping down behind the home.
That back yard had been a tiered garden leading to a fountain, offering dramatic views of the 1940 house.