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Julia Morgan Legacy Day in Santa Monica

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Hector Gonzalez
Staff Writer

February 27, 2015 -- Every field has its firsts, and in the world of architecture Julia Morgan holds the distinction of being the first woman licensed to practice architecture in California.

Architect Julia Morgan

After achieving that milestone in 1904, Morgan went on to design at least 700 buildings, including Hearst Castle and St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Berkeley.

Image © Cal Poly |

But she’s probably best known locally as the designer of the former Beach House built by publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst on Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica.

After it was sold and re-sold, Hearst’s old mansion eventually became the Annenberg Community Beach House, which opened to the public in 2009.

“She was the great female architect of the 20th century,” said Kay Pattison, a volunteer docent at the Annenberg Community Beach House, which is hosting Julia Morgan Legacy Day this Sunday, March 1, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“She was the primary architect for Phoebe Hearst, William Randolph Hearst’s mother, as well as for William Randolph Hearst. She did many, many buildings in Berkeley for Phoebe Hearst,” Pattison said.

Sunday’s tribute to Morgan is one of two major events organized by the Beach House’s docents; the second is the community center’s yearly birthday party for Marion Davies, who lived with Hearst at the former 101-room mansion at 415 Pacific Coast Highway.

Today, the Beach House's historic pool and Davies' Guest House, both of which were designed by Morgan, are the only original elements remaining on the old Beach House property.

Docents will spotlight the architect of the Guest House and historic pool at Sunday’s tribute, which also will feature a lecture, “Julia Morgan: A Closer Look,” by Victoria Kastner at 11 a.m. in the Event House, a news release for the event said.

Kastner, the official historian at Hearst Castle, where she has worked for more than 30 years, is the author of a definitive trilogy on Hearst Castle, the release said.

During her lifetime, Morgan shied away from honors, according to the Julia Morgan online exhibition at Cal Poly’s website. The university received thousands of her papers in 1980 from Morgan’s heirs.

“Her trailblazing career helped open the field of architecture to women in the United States,” the website says. “Today she is perhaps best known for the design and construction of publisher W.R. Hearst’s legendary California coastal estate. Yet she was much more than the architect of San Simeon.”

In 1929, Morgan received an honorary doctorate degree from UC, Berkeley, her alma mater, “one of the few honors she accepted,” the website says.

In 2014, the American Institute of Architects awarded her a posthumous Gold Medal, which is considered the profession’s highest honor. Morgan was the first woman to receive the medal, the news release said.

In 2012, the Annenberg Community Beach House participated in a statewide celebration of Morgan and now holds Legacy Day in her honor every year “to recognize her significance to the site and to the world of architecture,” the release said.

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