With the record-breaking Women’s March only months behind us and Women’s History Month currently upon us, it’s time to shine a spotlight on one of San Francisco’s most famed architects: Julia Morgan.

Born in San Francisco in 1872, Morgan would grow up to become one of the most prolific and talented architects in the United States. She was the first woman to be admitted to the architecture program at The École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, and was also the first woman to receive the AIA Gold Medal.

While she’s probably best known for the ostentatious, yet captivating Hearst Castle in San Simeon, we’ve chosen to focus on four of her notable Bay Area designs. Read on to learn more about Julia Morgan and her eventful career.

El Campanil Bell Tower at Mills College

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Photo: Mills College

El Campanil Bell Tower was one of Morgan’s first designs. She worked with Susan Mills, the President of Mills College (originally a women’s university), to erect this bell tower with the hope of advancing opportunities for women. She benefitted from an uptick in prestige when the bell tower successfully withstood the 1906 earthquake.

Hearst Greek Theatre at UC Berkeley

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Photo: Sanfranman59/Wikimedia

Morgan helped to design the Hearst Greek Theatre while working in the office of John Galen Howard. William Randolph Hearst supported Morgan’s career greatly throughout her life, even going so far as to making her his principal architect. They were introduced through Hearst’s mother, who was the chief patron of the University of California at Berkeley.

Oakland YWCA Building


Photo: Our Oakland/Oakland Wiki

Built in 1915, the YWCA was the first social service agency in the City of Oakland. While Morgan went on to design 17 buildings for the organization, this Renaissance style masterpiece was designated as an Oakland Landmark in 1977 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The Oakland chapter was founded entirely by women who wanted “to gather children together to teach them helpful things…To visit jails and hold prayer and Bible readings with the women.”

The Hearst Building

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Photo: hearstbuildingsf.com

The Hearst Building, which occupies the corner of Third and Market Street in San Francisco, was rebuilt twice between 1898 and 1911. Architect Julia Morgan was brought in by Hearst in 1938 to “complete a remodel of the [building’s] exterior entry way, the lobby on the ground floor and the parapet roof structure,” according to the website for The Hearst Building. Never one to shy away from the ornate, Morgan installed “20 cast bronze medallions containing fanciful animals above the front door” that boasted red, white and blue lighting, as well as a crest above the front entry. She also transformed the lobby and elevator interiors, which are still intact.

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