About the Colony

Get to know Phoebe Hearst at one-woman show in Atascadero

Karen Harris plays Phoebe Apperson Hearst in a show that tells the story of the powerful philanthropist who was the mother of William Randoph Hearst.
David Middlecamp
9-16-2015
Karen Harris plays Phoebe Apperson Hearst in a show that tells the story of the powerful philanthropist who was the mother of William Randoph Hearst. David Middlecamp 9-16-2015 dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A special one-woman program this Friday night in Atascadero will re-acquaint us with Phoebe Apperson Hearst, mother of William Randolph Hearst. A tribute to Hearst will be performed by Karen Harris, who lives in Atascadero.

An avid collector of art, the matriarch of the Hearst dynasty is responsible for exposing her only child to the artistic wonders of the world and inspired him to build a palatial estate on the Central Coast at San Simeon.

A former school teacher, she never lost her interest in education, especially for women. Once she had the finances to do so, she donated a great deal of money to the University of California at Berkeley, not only for buildings and grounds, but scholarships specifically for women.

Phoebe Hearst was also one of the most influential philanthropists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. When her husband, George, passed away in 1891, Phoebe moved from her Washington, D.C., home (her husband was a United States senator) to California and got involved with helping her son with the building of Hearst Castle. She did that by encouraging him to hire Julia Morgan as architect of the monumental project.

The building of Hearst Castle sort of parallels the building of Atascadero. In fact, the man who did much of the ornamental iron work on the Castle project also did work on an Atascadero home, now owned by Mayor Tom O’Malley and his wife, Peggy.

One of the standout publishers and editors of the Atascadero News was a former Hearst newspaper man from Fort Worth, Texas, J. Montgomery Brown, known locally as “Monty.”Hanging in the Atascadero Historical Society museum is a photo of William Randolph Hearst and his wife, Millicent, with Edward and Mabel Lewis. They are standing on the steps of Lewis’ eight-sided city hall in University City, Mo., in 1908.

I’m sure Lewis was well-known to other publishers in the country because of the success of his own publications, The Illustrated Review and the Women’s National Daily. Phoebe Hearst would no doubt have been a major supporter of Lewis because of his belief in the power and influence of women in America and that they should have the right to vote.

The show, “Phoebe Apperson Hearst: An American Treasure,” is being sponsored by the Atascadero Performing Arts Center Committee (APACC). VIP tickets (an early reception and up-front seating) are $50 and general admission $30.

APACC expects the show, which is being staged at the Best Western Plus Colony Inn on Friday, to sell out. Show times are 5:30 (reception) and 6:15 p.m.

To check on tickets, go to http://www.atascaderopac.org

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