When Harris Victor and his wife Maxine Terry visited the Hearst Castle in 1959, they did not know they would go on to change the landscape of San Simeon forever. Operating a small grocery store in Tacoma, Washington, the Victor’s dreamed of escaping the cold and dreary weather of the Pacific Northwest and turned their sights on California. While traveling through the Central Coast, they visited the Hearst Castle and immediately saw an opportunity. Despite the popularity of Hearst Castle, there was only one hotel in the area. Without hesitation, Harris purchased a plot of land that night and the rest is history.
Bringing his entire family on board, Harris built the Silver Surf Motel, a simple 10-unit lodge, just a few miles away from Hearst Castle. Constantly evolving, the Victor’s grew the motel to 40 units and sold it in 1964 to purchase a one-acre piece of oceanfront land (the current site of the Cavalier Oceanfront Resort). That’s when things got exciting for the Victor’s and San Simeon. In 1969, they added 32 more units to the Cavalier Inn (as it was then known) and started construction on the adjacent Plaza Shopping Center. The new shopping plaza opened in 1972 and gave San Simeon a new retail focal point. However, the good times didn’t last as Harris fell ill and passed away in 1975. The tragedy shook the entire family and put a temporary halt on any future expansion plans.
In 1980, the company completed its first expansion without Harris’s leadership - the new King’s Terrace and a new phase for the Victor family began. The following year they acquired the Cavalier Restaurant, in 1986 they acquired the Bleschyu Miniature Golf site, and in 1989 they acquired three and a half acres of the adjoining properties west and north of the Cavalier Inn. Today, this land, along with the Sands Motel property (which was acquired in 2010), is part of a massive development project, which will include a complete renovation of the Cavalier Oceanfront Resort.
Today, the Cavalier Oceanfront Resort is managed by Harris Victor’s daughter, Barbara and her husband Mike Hanchett, whose father worked at Hearst Castle. Byron Hanchett was an electrician at the Castle and ran the film projector when it still served as Hearst’s residence. After retiring Byron wrote a book about his experience at Hearst Castle titled, “In & Around the Castle,” which was endorsed by the Hearst Estate. The book features personal stories and photographs during his time at the Castle. Another link to Hearst Castle is the large column that sits at the front of the Cavalier Oceanfront Resort. The column is one of 38 which William Randolph Hearst purchased in 1927. Its origins trace back to 16th Century Italy and although the column looks like it’s made out of marble it’s actually Verona Red Limestone - a unique and decorative material that is only found in Verona, Italy.