More than Hearst Castle: a look into Julia Morgan

Julia Morgan in 1898 in her Paris apartment. Photo from Julia Morgan Papers, Special Collections and Archives, California Polytechnic State University courtesy of the New York Times.

Most people wouldn’t realize, but there’s a direct connection to print-tycoon William Randolph Hearst and his namesake castle right in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. The Lobero Building (formerly The Margaret Baylor Inn for professional women) at 924 Anacapa Street was built just after the earthquake in 1926 by Julia Morgan – who beginning in 1919, famously spent almost thirty years working on La Casa Encantada (Spanish for The Enchanted Hill) or as most know it, Hearst Castle.

Lobero Building, present day in Santa Barbara, CA. Image courtesy of Trip Advisor.

Morgan was much more than just a single project. She was the first woman to pass the entrance exams at what was then the world’s most prestigious architecture school, Ecole des Beux-Arts in Paris. A few years later, in 1904, she’d become the first woman to receive an architect’s license in California. Over her career, she would go on to build more than 700 projects before she retired in 1951 at the age of 79.

The Hearld Examiner Building in Los Angeles, CA. Photo from Lawrence Anderson/Esto courtesy of Architect Magazine.

Despite the prominence of her works, the architecture of 1950s moved away from the skills and style that defined her work. Largely thanks to a biography published in the late 1980s, her work is now rightfully celebrated. It took until 2014 for her profession to finally give her the respect she commanded – when she was honored by the American Institute of Architects with the Gold Medal – the only woman to woman to win the award in its 112+ year history.

An interior from the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, CA. Photo from Lawrence Anderson/Esto courtesy of Architect Magazine.

We share three articles with you on Julia Morgan, the first is a look into her life by the New York Times as part of Overlooked. The series revisits remarkable women and individuals of color – who never received an obituary. The second article provides a look into one of Morgan’s finer works, the Chinese Y.W.C.A. in San Francisco – now the Chinese Historical Society of America.  Last, but definitely not least, an appreciation from Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne from Architect Magazine .

Additional Information

Technically, the Margaret Baylor Inn/Lobero Building is one of two Julia Morgan buildings in downtown Santa Barbara – adjacent to El Presidio SHP. The other, is the gymnasium attached to Carrillo Recreational Center. Both the gym and the Lobero Building are City Landmarks.

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