Julia Morgan, Architect



Berkeley City Club, 1929–1930
2315 Durant Ave.
designated in 1975
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Julia Morgan was an extraordinarily prolific Bay Area architect who in the 47 years of her career completed over 700 projects, more than any other architect of her time. In Berkeley alone, she designed over 100 buildings, including such varied masterpieces as the wooden 1910 Julia Morgan Theater in Craftsman Style (originally St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2640 College Avenue), the elegant 1928 Mediterranean stucco mansion (2821 Claremont Avenue), which served for years to house the University’s vice-president, and the 1930 Berkeley City Club (2315 Durant Avenue), a medieval fantasy executed in reinforced concrete that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With its unique combination of Moorish, Romanesque, and Gothic elements, the Berkeley City Club manifests Julia Morgan’s creative eclecticism as well as her solid engineering skills.

Berkeley is studded with dozens of simple but elegant Craftsman Style shingled houses that Julia Morgan built for clients, among them her sorority sisters, faculty members, and other friends and family, even including a house for her mother and sister at 2404 Prospect Street (later demolished). Outside the Bay Area, she is known for her YWCA commissions throughout California, Utah, Arizona, and Hawaii, but above all for Hearst Castle at San Simeon, that is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Born in San Francisco and raised in Oakland, Julia Morgan found her calling in Berkeley where she took a degree in civil engineering in 1894 while living at Kappa Alpha Theta, the university’s first sorority. Her engineering studies provided a sound foundation for architecture, and her sorority sisters and friends became future clients. In 1902, she became the first woman to earn a certificate at Europe’s premier architecture school, the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. She is also the first woman architect to win the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, awarded posthumously in 2014.

Contributed by Sarah Gill, 2013

  • Julia Morgan drawing for Berkeley Women's City Club (ca.1928). Courtesy Landmark Heritage Foundation, Berkeley City Club Image Archives

  • St. John’s Presbyterian Church (1908-10), UC Berkeley Environmental Design Archives

  • St. John's Presbyterian Church soon after completion (ca. 1910), BAHA Archives

  • St. John's Presbyterian Church postcard, Sarah Wikander collection

  • 2821 Claremont Ave., photo (2011) berkeleyheritage.com

  • Julia Morgan, UC Berkeley (1890), Oaklandwiki.org

  • Julia Morgan passport photo (1899), Landmark Heritage Foundation, Berkeley City Club Image Archives

  • Julia Morgan with William Randolph Hearst, photo (1926) Irvin Willat

More information:
Landmarks California
• Boutelle, Sara Holmes. Julia Morgan: Architect. New York: Abbeville Press, 1995.
• McNeill, Karen. “Women Who Build: Julia Morgan & Women’s Institutions,” California History (Summer 2012), pp. 41–74.
• Wilson, Mark A. Julia Morgan: Architect of Beauty. Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith, 2007.
Landmark Heritage Foundation
• Longstreth, Richard W. Julia Morgan, Architect. Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, Berkeley, 1977.
• “Julia Morgan Architectural History Project,” Ed., Suzanne B. Riess, 1976, Regional Oral History Office, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
• Karen McNeill. “An Americanist in Paris… Finding Julia Morgan.” September 1, 2012. Beverly Willis Architectural Foundation.
• “Julia Morgan: Gender, Architecture and Professional Style.” Pacific Historical Review, vol. 72, no. 2 (May 2007): 229–268.
• “‘Women Who Build’: Julia Morgan and Women’s Institutions.” California History, vol. 89, no. 3 (Summer 2012): 41–76.
First Woman to win US architecture’s highest honor

Photo credit abbreviations:
BAHA: Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assn.
BHS: Berkeley Historical Society