Julia Morgan (1872–1957) was one of California’s most influential architects. Re-markable not only as an independent woman working in what was traditionally a man’s field, she was also a meticulous engineer and a talented designer.
Julia Morgan was born in San Francisco in 1872. Her mother was an heiress, and her father hailed from a well-connected East Coast family. At a time when few women sought professional careers, she graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1894 with a degree in civil engineering. At the urging of her mentor, architect Bernard Maybeck, she attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, becoming the first woman to earn a certificate in architecture from the prestigious school.
While in Paris, Morgan spent time with Phoebe Apperson Hearst, a wealthy philanthropist active in women’s issues and education. Mrs. Hearst became an important client, supporter, and friend. Her son, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, would give Morgan her most famous, and largest, commission: the extraordinary La Cuesta Encantada (“the Enchanted Hill”), better known as Hearst Castle, built between 1919 and 1947.
When Morgan returned from Paris to San Francisco in 1902, she went to work in the office of architect John Galen Howard. In 1904, she became the first woman granted a license to practice architecture in California and shortly thereafter started her own business. A high-profile commission to rebuild the Fairmont Hotel following the 1906 earthquake solidified Morgan’s reputation, leading to a dramatic increase in clients and to financial success. Read More »