Julia Morgan was an architect. She is not widely known because most of her designs are in California. My brother is currently living in one of Julia Morgan’s homes in Oakland. That’s how Ruth & I got to see one of her designs inside and outside.
Julia Morgan was born in San Francisco but grew up in Oakland and lived to be 85. Most of her building designs are in Oakland. While earning a Civil Engineering degree at the University of California in Berkeley, she became interested in architecture. After graduating, she went to Paris, France, to study. She had her own architectural firm in San Francisco by 1904, but her office was destroyed by the earthquake in 1906. Devoted to her career, she never married. We know now that she was the first woman to earn an architect’s license in the state of California. She died in 1957 after a fairly short retirement.
Julia Morgan designed hundreds of buildings. Most experts say she was responsible for more than 700 architectural designs. Her grandest was Hearst Castle. She knew William Randolph Hearst and became the co-creator and chief architect of his famous estate on the California coast. It has 165 rooms. She worked on this property for 28 years.
Julia Morgan followed the arts and craft movement that influenced her, but she put a California twist on her designs. Many were elaborate like Hearst’s Castle. She is known for Beaux-Arts detailing, exposed beams, use of earth tones, and distinctive design elements. One of her more famous designs was the YWCA building in Honolulu that still exists. She also created the YWCA building in Oakland. The library she created in San Francisco survived the famous 1906 earthquake intact.
Many report that 700 of her designs are in Bay Area. Many of the gorgeous homes in San Francisco were her inventions. She created some furniture but is far more known for her architecture like the house my brother Jim is living in that has 19 rooms. The front yard has been turned into a fantastic garden with a lemon tree and many plants that no one can identify.