Biographies of Architects, Designers, and Builders

Julia Morgan (1872-1957)

Julia Morgan was born in San Francisco on January 20, 1872. She graduated from the College of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley in 1894, then studied at the Hopkins School of Art Instruction. In 1896, encouraged by architect Bernard Maybeck, she traveled to Paris, becoming the first woman admitted to study architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, from which she graduated in 1902.

Morgan returned to California in 1902 and passed her architecture licensing examination in 1904, after which she opened her own office in San Francisco. Morgan received considerable public attention when she was commissioned to rebuild the Fairmont Hotel, which had been heavily damaged in the 1906 earthquake.

Among her most significant clients was newspaperman William Randolph Hearst. For him Morgan designed her major career achievement, "La Cuesta Encantada," a Beaux-Arts extravaganza built between 1919 and 1937 and popularly known as Hearst Castle.

YWCA Residence HallAs the official West Coast architect for the YWCA, Morgan designed clubhouses in many western cities. The YWCA's Asilomar conference center at Pacific Grove is a superior example of her work in the Arts and Crafts style. Among her other YWCA projects were three buildings in Fresno, California: a 1921 Residence Hall on M Street (shown on left), a small bungalow activities building in West Fresno, and the Recreation Center on Tuolumne and L Streets (shown on right). YWCA Recreation Center In 1933 the recreation center was closed due to local financial problems. From 1945 to 1960 it was occupied by the Pacific Bible Institute (now Fresno Pacific University). Sadly, the recreation center was remodeled beyond recognition in 1965, as Fresno embraced a modernization campaign bolstered by the construction of the Fulton Mall.

Julia Morgan died on February 2, 1957.

©2001 John Edward Powell. All rights reserved.
Photo of Recreation Center courtesy of Fresno Pacific University Archives.