Best Dismembered Piece of Hearst Legacy

Scattered Remains of the Santa Maria de Ovila Monastery

No, we're not talking about the stranger-than-fiction final days of the Examiner. To see the most tragic bit of old Hearst wreckage it's necessary to take a walk in Golden Gate Park, where, at the main entrance to the Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Garden, stonemasons have cut ancient blocks of limestone to fashion a fountain, walkway, and raised planter bed for the new library terrace garden. Meanwhile, across the park at the National AIDS Memorial Grove, workers have been laying fluted limestone edgers to form an attractive, durable border along the pathways that meander across the hillsides sloping up from the grove's central meadow. The stones are cut from 800-year-old hand-carved limestone blocks, once the walls of the Santa Maria de Ovila monastery in Spain. In 1931 they were shipped to San Francisco at the behest of William Randolph Hearst. He planned to use them to build a mansion grander than San Simeon. Instead, the Great Depression forced Hearst to scale back, and he donated the stones to the city. They've been in Golden Gate Park for decades, where Park Service gardeners — without any permission, as far as we can tell — have now set to cutting them into landscaping material.

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