Julia Morgan

Julia Morgan


Julia Morgan (January 20, 1872February 2, 1957) was an American architect. The architect of over 700 buildings in California, she is best known for her work on Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. Throughout her long career, she designed multiple buildings for institutions serving women and girls.

Early life and education

Born in San Francisco, California, she was raised in Oakland and graduated from Oakland High School in 1890. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1894 with a degree in civil engineering. At the urging of her friend and mentor Bernard Maybeck, whom she met in her final year in undergraduate school, she headed to Paris to apply to the famous Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Denied at first because the school was not accepting women, and a second time because she failed the entrance exam (she claimed in a letter that she had been failed deliberately because she was a woman), after two years she finally passed the entrance exams in the architecture program, placing 13th out of 376 applicants, and was duly admitted. She was the first woman to graduate with a degree in architecture from the school in Paris.


Upon her return from Paris she took employment with the San Francisco architect John Galen Howard who was at that time supervising the University of California Master Plan. Morgan worked on several buildings on the UC Berkeley campus, most notably providing the decorative elements for the Hearst Mining Building, and designs for the Hearst Greek Theatre.

In 1904, she opened her own office in San Francisco. One of her earliest works from this period was North Star House in Grass Valley, California, commissioned in 1906 by mining engineer Arthur De Wint Foote and his wife, the author and illustrator, Mary Hallock Foote. Naturally, many commissions followed the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, ensuring her financial success.

The most famous of Morgan's patrons was the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who had been introduced to Morgan by his mother Phoebe Apperson Hearst, the chief patroness of the University of California at Berkeley. It is believed that this introduction led to Morgan's first downstate commission by Hearst, circa 1914, for the design of the Los Angeles Examiner Building, a project that included contributions by Los Angeles architects William J. Dodd and J. Martyn Haenke. In 1919 Hearst selected Morgan as the architect for La Cuesta Encantada, better known as Hearst Castle, which was built atop the family campsite overlooking San Simeon harbor. The project proved to be her largest and most complex, as Hearst's vision for his estate grew ever grander during planning and construction. From this point forward, Morgan became Hearst's principal architect, producing the designs for dozens of buildings, such as Wyntoon (a second castle plus "Bavarian village" of four villas located on of forest on the McCloud River near Mount Shasta), Jolon (a "hunting lodge" built in a Mission Style about thirty miles from the Castle), and Babicora, Hearst's Mexican rancho.

The Julia Morgan School for Girls in Oakland is named after her. The school is the only middle school for girls in the East Bay. It occupies Alderwood Hall at Mills College, a 1924 building designed by Morgan.

Her best-known works not commissioned by Hearst include the YWCAs in San Francisco's Chinatown, Oakland, and Riverside, the latter of which is now the Riverside Art Museum, as well as a World War I YWCA Hostess House in Palo Alto which has been the site of MacArthur Park restaurant since 1981, the Mills College Bell Tower, St. John's Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove near Monterey, California, the sanctuary at 32 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, where [Mission Bay Community Church] now meets and several houses on San Francisco's Russian Hill. Some of her residential projects, most of them located in the San Francisco Bay Area, may be categorized as ultimate bungalows, a term often associated with the work of Greene and Greene and some of Morgan's other contemporaries and teachers.

Morgan is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver announced on May 28, 2008 that Morgan will be inducted into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. The induction ceremony will take place December 10th and her great-niece will accept the honor in her place.


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