A young woman of means with family money, Morgan was still determined to pursue a career. Fortunately, her parents were open minded people who encouraged their daughters to seek careers that would be meaningful to them at a time during the late Victorian era when women were expected only to be wives and mothers. Morgan attended the University of California at Berkeley with a strong interest in Mathematics which led to her major in engineering. Architect and guest lecturer Bernard Maybeck, was impressed with Morgan and included her in a series of informal architecture seminars at his Berkeley home. His philosophy espoused that, whenever possible, a building should appear to be integrated into its environment both in the way it fits into the site, and through the use of natural materials. Maybeck encouraged Morgan to continue her studies at the prestigious École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris where he had distinguished himself.
After graduation from Berkeley in 1894 with a degree in civil engineering, the only female in her engineering class, Morgan headed to Paris in 1896 in spite of the fact that a woman had never before been admitted to study within the architectural division of the École.  The Paris school is the namesake and founding location of the Beaux Arts architectural movement in the early twentieth century. Known for demanding classwork and rigorous standards for education, the École attracted students from around the world – including the United States, where students returned to design buildings that would influence the history of architecture in America, including the Boston Public Library, 1888–1895, and the New York Public Library, 1897–1911. Architectural graduates, especially in France, are granted the title élève.
After she earned her diploma in 1902, Morgan returned to the Bay Area where she worked on various projects while she saved towards the establishment of own practice. By 1904, Morgan opened her first office at 456 Montgomery, a building that was demolished in the earthquake of 1906. Timing is everything. Morgan's career flourished in the wake of the earthquake with the ensuing architectural boom that provided her with commissions that included houses, churches, clubs, banks, schools, hospitals, and commercial space.
Morgan was highly regarded, especially by women, which led to a number of commissions for women's clubs, residence halls, and YWCA (Young Women's Christian Association)-five in San Francisco, including the interior of the YWCA for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the World's Fair.
Casa Grande-The Main House
Mediterranean Revival Style
Hearst Castle Complex
|William Randolf Hearst with Julia Morgan|
At the San Simeon Site
Photograph: Irvin Willat
Over the course of the next 28 years, Morgan supervised nearly every aspect of construction at San Simeon, including the purchase of everything from Spanish antiquities to Icelandic Moss, to reindeer for the Castle’s zoo. She personally designed most of the structures, grounds, pools, animal shelters and workers’ camp down to the minutest detail. In addition, Morgan worked closely with Hearst to integrate his vast art collection into the structures and grounds at the castle complex.  By 1947, Hearst and Morgan had created an estate of 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways.
Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California
Photo ca. 1995
Window with Gothic Tracery
Whether commissioned by the likes of Hearst or the middle class, Morgan gave her clients a carefully considered solution. In 1950, after forty-five years in a practice during which she shared all her profits with her atelier-like staff, she closed her office and had her records destroyed. Morgan insisted that the buildings should speak for her adding that "architecture is a visual, not a verbal art." She died in February, 1957, at the age of 85.
Sara Boutelle, Julia Morgan, Architect (1988).
Richard Longstreth, Julia Morgan— Architect (1977).
Two articles by Boutelle: "The Woman Who Built San Simeon," in the California Monthly (1976), and "Women's Networks: Julia Morgan and her Clients," in Heresies of 1981.
Nancy Loe, San Simeon Revisited (1987), a collection of the correspondence between the architect and William Randolph Hearst.
"The Julia Morgan Architectural History Project." The University of California at Berkeley __________________________________
1. Architectural World, Great Buildings, Julia Morgan, Architect, http://www.greatbuildings.com/architects/Julia_Morgan.html (accessed February 1, 2013).
2. Wilson, Mark. Julia Morgan: Architect of Beauty. (Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 2007). 3.
3. David Parry, Julia Morgan, Architect, Encyclopedia of San Francisco, http://www.sfhistoryencyclopedia.com/articles/m/morganJulia.html. Entry taken from the website of David Parry at www.classicSFproperties.com (accessed February 1, 2013).
4. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Robert E. Kennedy Library. Biography: Julia Morgan. http://lib.calpoly.edu/specialcollections/architecture/juliamorgan/biography.html. (accessed February 4, 2013).
5. California State Parks: Hearst Castle. http://www.hearstcastle.org/history-art/historic-people/julia-morgan. (accessed February 4, 2013).
7. Berkeley California: Williams House, 1928. http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/jmwmshse/jmwmshse.html. (accessed February 4, 2013).