Julia Morgan


b. January 20, 1872
d. February 2, 1957

“My buildings will be my legacy … they will speak for me long after I’m gone.”

Julia Morgan is recognized as the first truly independent female architect in America and the first female architect licensed by the state of California. She designed nearly 800 projects in California and Hawaii, including the famous Hearst Castle in San Simeon.

Born in San Francisco and raised in Oakland, California, Morgan graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in civil engineering. She was the only female engineer in her class. After Morgan received her bachelor’s degree, an instructor encouraged her to pursue architectural studies at École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The school, which had never admitted a woman, initially refused her application. She was accepted eventually after reapplying and became the first female to graduate with a certificate in architecture.

Upon graduation, Morgan returned to San Francisco and began working for John Galen Howard, a successful architect, on the University of California’s master plan. Morgan worked on designs for several buildings on the Berkeley campus and served as the primary designer of Berkley’s Hearst Greek Theater.

In 1904 Morgan became the first woman to obtain an architecture license from the state of California and opened her own firm. She completed many notable commissions, including Phoebe Hearst’s Hacienda del Pozo de Verona in Pleasanton, California, and multiple buildings on the campus of Mills College.

After the 1906 earthquake, Morgan was hired to repair the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Her innovative use of reinforced concrete was expected to help the building survive future earthquakes. She also oversaw construction of a series of YWCAs in California, Hawaii and Utah. Her California vernacular style included distinctive elements such as exposed support beams, horizontal lines that blend with the landscape, shingles, local redwood and earth tones.

In 1919 the newspaper publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst hired Morgan to design a main building and guest houses for his ranch in San Simeon, later known as Hearst Castle. Over the course of 28 years, Morgan designed most of the structures, grounds, pools, animal shelters, and workers’ camps and supervised nearly every aspect of construction. The finished property included a total of 42 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms and 127 acres of gardens. It remains an iconic landmark and tourist attraction.

Morgan received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from UC Berkeley in 1929. She was inducted posthumously into the California Hall of Fame in 2008. In 2014, 57 years after her death, she became the first woman to receive the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gold Medal.