Hearst Castle’s famed Neptune Pool — mostly empty for 5 years — will be refilled

After five years left mostly dry and empty, Hearst Castle’s Neptune Pool is ready to reclaim its blue glory.

Starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday, State Parks and its contractor on the restoration project will begin refilling the iconic feature, a process that is expected to take at least a couple days.

Dan Falat, superintendent of the State Parks district that includes the Castle, said July 31 that this is the final phase of a $5.4 million project to repair, renovate, revamp, waterproof and completely retile the much-photographed outdoor swimming pool. Conservators also worked on statues surrounding the pool.

It will take about 345,000 gallons to fill the 104-by-95-foot pool and the adjoining alcove.

The pool has been empty most of the time since mid-2013, first because of the drought and then because workers from T.B. Penick & Sons of San Diego have been on the job, searching for and fixing the leaks that have plagued the structure almost since it was finished in 1936 (that was the third iteration of the pool).

The renovations included replacing the pool’s old tiles. The approximately 10,000 new white marble and 4,500 green serpentine tiles were provided by the same firm that provided the original tile. What’s more, the rock came from the same quarry, the Carl Schilling Stoneworks quarry in Vermont.

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The $5.5 million project began in earnest in mid-May 2016, but the project’s planning process in Sacramento and San Simeon had been underway for about a decade.

“There’s still about two weeks’ worth of work to do,” Falat said Monday afternoon. That would include testing all the work that’s been done, he said, making sure all the leaks are fixed and all systems are functioning properly, cleaning up the area and demobilizing the contractor.

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Visitors learn about the repairs to the Neptune Pool during a tour of Hearst Castle in May. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

He said a lot of the work area will still be closed to the public, but many of the previous visual obstacles will have been removed.

Visitors will “still see the Neptune Pool on every tour,” he said, “and they’ll be able to go down to the Neptune Terrace.”

With the pool’s spectacular hilltop setting and sunlight dancing on the water, fog wafting over it or vivid sunsets reflecting in it, the Neptune is one of the most frequently photographed pools in the world.

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