Water began flowing into the famed Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle at about 8:20 a.m. Tuesday, a little later than expected because the liquid first had to stream down from uphill springs.
As soon as the water began accumulating on the marble-and-serpentine-tiled floor, the area was blanketed with the gentle sound of tiny rippling water cascades, each one coming from a lower outlet on the side of the 104-foot-long pool.
“It’s got a really nice flow to it,” Dan Falat, superintendent of the State Park district that includes Hearst Castle, said Tuesday afternoon. “The sound is wonderful.”
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Falat had just watched as workers turned on the upper outlets, and said, “The atmosphere is very elated and excited.”
Tour guides regularly explain the history of the project — “how and why we did it,” Falat said — but on one tour, “the entire group just wanted to stand on the Neptune Terrace to watch and listen to the pool fill.”
He added, “It’s a great milestone to watch and be present for. I told the visitors, ‘It’s like being the first guests when Mr. Hearst filled the pool. You’re the first guests now.’”
Of course, just as happens in a slanted-bottom bathtub, the deep end begins to fill first. After the water had flowed for about six hours, Falat said, “it was about 4 to 5 feet from the shallow end. It had started filling in the alcove and there was already water around the Venus” statue and the mermen around her. “I’m hopeful that by the time we stop tonight, the whole pool will have some level of water in it.”
Workers were to stop the filling process for the night and resume early on Tuesday. The whole process was estimated to take two to two-and-a-half days.
If all goes as well as expected, there’ll still be a couple more weeks of work to do in the final phase of a $5.4 million, multi-year project to repair many leaks in the iconic pool, some of which have been dripping for decades, despite earlier attempts to stem the trickles, seeps and flows. At its worst, State Parks says that the pool was leaking from 2,000 to 5,000 gallons a day.
The repair work by T.B. Penick & Sons of San Diego began in mid-2016.