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For forty five years, from 1904 to 1950, Julia Morgan had her offices in the Merchant’s Exchange on California Street, just a few blocks from the Mechanics’ Institute. Her San Francisco buildings include The Heritage, which offers housing for senior citizens, The Methodist Chinese Mission School, now Gum Moon Residence Hall on Jackson Street in Chinatown, the Chinatown YWCA, now home to the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum, the Donaldina Cameron House, and the Fairmont Hotel.
This new biography—featuring over 150 archival images and full-color photographs printed throughout—introduces Julia Morgan as both a pioneering architect and a captivating individual. Julia Morgan was a lifelong trailblazer. She was the first woman admitted to study architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the first licensed to practice architecture in California. Over the first half of the 20th century, she left an indelible mark on the American West.
Of her remarkable 700 creations, the most iconic is Hearst Castle. Morgan spent thirty years constructing this opulent estate on the California coast for the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst—forging a lifelong friendship and creative partnership with him. Together, they built a spectacular and unequaled residence that once hosted the biggest stars of Hollywood's golden age, and that now welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
This compelling biography draws on interviews, letters, and Morgan's diaries, including never-before-seen reflections on faith, art, and her life experiences. Morgan's friendship with Hearst, her passion for California's landscape, her struggles with familial dementia, and her devotion to architecture reveal her to have been a singularly brilliant and determined artist. By exploring both Morgan's work and her life, Kastner weaves a captivating tale about courage, vision, and resilience.
Victoria Kastner was Hearst Castle’s official historian for more than twenty years. She wrote the definitive trilogy on its history, published by Abrams Books: Hearst Castle: The Biography of a Country House, with a foreword by George Plimpton; Hearst’s San Simeon: The Gardens and the Land; and Hearst Ranch: Family, Land, and Legacy. She has been interviewed extensively on national and international media, and appeared in the documentary Citizen Hearst, which premiered on PBS’ American Experience on September 27 and 29, 2021. Kastner holds master’s degrees in Public History from the University of California at Santa Barbara and in Museum Management from George Washington University. Now an independent researcher and lecturer, she resides in Los Osos, California. (Photo credit Vickie Garagliano)
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