Women’s History Month Remembers Julia Morgan

Julia Morgan

Best known for her work on Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Julia Morgan designed more than 700 buildings, mostly in the San Francisco area, after becoming the first female licensed architect in California in 1904. The second of her parents’ five children, Julia was born January 20, 1872, in San Francisco. Two years later the family moved to Oakland, where the Morgans were supported by Julia’s wealthy maternal grandparents. Gaining the support of her parents to pursue a career before considering marriage—a somewhat radical idea in her day—Julia graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1894 with a degree in civil engineering, the only woman in her engineering class. At first denied admission to the prestigious École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, she persevered and in 1902, earned a certificate in architecture, the first woman to receive one from that school. Returning from Paris, she took employment with San Francisco architect John Galen Howard, who reportedly told a colleague that Julia “was an excellent draftsman to whom I have to pay almost nothing,” because she was a woman. Her subsequent work (on her own) included many buildings designed for the YWCA and Mills College, and she redesigned the landmark Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake. Some of Julia Morgan’s residential projects express the American Craftsman style of architecture; her own residence was on San Francisco’s Russian Hill. She died in 1957, and is buried in Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery. On May 28, 2008, Julia Morgan was posthumously inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

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