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Julia Morgan—The Woman Behind the Hotel’s Name

Posted on  March 20, 2013

Learn about the legacy behind Hearst Castle.



The Morgan. Yes, it’s the name of one of our beloved hotels, but there’s much more meaning behind it. We are honored to be named for the local architect who in 1919 designed the legendary landmark, Hearst Castle—Julia Morgan.


American architect, Julia Morgan was born in San Francisco and grew up in Oakland. As one of the first women to graduate from University of California Berkley with a degree in civil engineering, Morgan developed an interest in architecture and worked on several buildings on campus, including the decorative elements for Hearst Mining Building and the Hearst Greek Theater.


In 1896, Morgan moved to Paris to pursue her architectural studies at the Ecole Nationale et Speciales des Beaux-Arts. Initially, she was rejected because the school had never enrolled a woman—but after a two-year wait, she was accepted into the program and became the first woman to receive a certificate in architecture.


Morgan then returned to her native San Francisco, and in 1904, she opened her own architectural firm and established herself as a fine residential architect, securing a number of commissions in the Piedmont, Claremont and Berkeley neighborhoods.


Throughout her career, Morgan designed over 800 buildings in Hawaii and California. Some of her other noteworthy projects include the rebuilding of the Fairmont Hotel after the 1906 earthquake, the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove and a series of YMCA buildings throughout the states of California, Hawaii and Utah.


Miss Morgan is probably known best as the mastermind behind La Cuesta Encantada, also known as Hearst Castle. William Randolph Hearst hired her to design a main building and guest houses for his family ranch in San Simeon, California. He instructed her to “build something that would be more comfortable” than the platform tents which he previously used, and over the next 28 years, Morgan supervised what would be her largest and most complex project—from purchasing Spanish antiquities, Icelandic Moss and reindeer for the Castle’s zoo to designing structures, grounds, pools and more to the last detail.


Once Hearst’s health declined in 1947, Julia’s work at the San Simeon estate was finished, although the Castle was never completed in its entirety.


Julia Morgan retired in the early 1950’s and passed away in 1957.



**Photo from




The Morgan

A boutique jewel nestled along California’s scenic Central Coast, The Morgan welcomes you with a warmth and personality all its own. As the favorite choice in Hearst Castle hotels, The Morgan at San Simeon is located only 4 miles from the Visitor Center. 9135 Hearst Drive, San Simeon, CA 93452. 805-927-3878.

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