Julia Morgan, born on January 20, 1872 in San Francisco, is one of the most well-known architects. With international experience, Morgan worked for over 40 years in architecture and designed about 700 buildings in California. 

Morgan graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a civil engineering degree in 1894. She pursued architecture privately under architect Bernard Maybeck, a UC Berkeley instructor, who later inspired her to pursue design further. Studying abroad in Paris, she learned the foundations of architecture at École des Beaux-Arts, graduating in 1902.

After she graduated, she returned to San Francisco not only to design homes, buildings, and educational institutions but also to open up her own architectural office in 1904. She was the first woman to obtain an architectural license in California. She pursued designing not only the homes that we live in and visit today but also buildings and strong, monumental pieces such as Mills College’s bell tower that withstood the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Throughout her over 40 years of architectural work in the SF Bay Area she continued to make a lot of eclectic designs that were also meticulous and logistically planned works.

Morgan’s architectural launch was when she partnered with William Randolph Hearst in 1919 to build the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. Implementing a classy, opulent Mediterranean theme to the mansion, she worked on the architectural design and implementation of the project for 28 years, implementing styles characterized by elegant, lavish, and ostentatious aesthetics. Hearst and Morgan built luxurious buildings and gardens throughout this 127-acre estate. Through her meticulous design, she implemented European architecture into the castle, and she has been well-recognized for her careful craftsmanship and the ability to execute outstanding buildings while staying within the budget.

Julia Morgan passed away in 1957 in San Francisco.


  • Hearst Castle.
  • Fairmont Hotel. Although the Fairmont Hotel was designed by the Reid Brothers, Morgan was hired to restore the hotel after it was damaged by the 1906 earthquake. The commission to start repairing this hotel highlights Morgan’s skills not as a designer but as a civil engineer.
  • El Campanil, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland, CA 94613 and UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley, 200 Centennial Drive, Berkeley, CA 94720. Places that Morgan was known to hang out were throughout San Francisco and Oakland, where a lot of her architectural works were debuted. Having graduated from UC Berkeley as a civil engineer, she spent a lot of time in the East Bay, later coming back to design El Campanil, Mills College’s bell tower and modern Victorian houses around San Francisco — specifically in Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights. Pictured below is one of Morgan’s architectural works at UC Berkeley, which is now a historic landmark within the campus’s botanical garden.

Photo courtesy of botannicalgarden.berkeley.edu

  • One of the most significant places that Morgan improved her architectural craft was at her mentor Bernard Maybeck’s alma mater, École des Beaux-Arts, in Paris. Becoming the first woman to graduate from the architectural program at the school in 1902, she used her design skills to create further monumental and long-lasting pieces throughout California.
  • 465 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94104. Returning to San Francisco after graduating from the architectural program at art school, Morgan first obtained a license as an architect in 1904, and then opened her own practice in the Bay Area at 456 Montgomery Street in San Francisco, later opening up a new office in 465 Montgomery Street, a building which is now popular and known for the Julia Morgan Ballroom on the 15th floor. While Oakland remained true to her heart, San Francisco was the location thriving the most in terms of economic and architectural growth, which is where many of Morgan’s works have endured.

Photo courtesy of juliamorganballroom.com

~ by Patricia Dalao ~

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