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What it took to redesign San Francisco

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Julia Morgan already had decided that she wanted to become an architect before enrolling in the University of California at Berkeley in 1890. Because Berkeley had no architecture program, Morgan became the school’s first woman to graduate with a degree in engineering.

Next, Morgan worked for a year under Bernard Maybeck, a graduate of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, considered the finest architecture school in the world, which he thought might be ready to admit women.

Gender aside, the French school was extremely competitive and discouraged foreigners as well. It took her two years, but she finally got in.

Graduating as the school’s first female architect in 1902, Morgan headed back to California and two years later began her own firm. She became known for designing beautiful homes in a California arts-and-crafts style.

Then came the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Morgan rebuilt not only her own office (every drawing and pencil destroyed) but much of the city as well, including stores, churches, offices, hospitals, apartment buildings and the Fairmont Hotel. Perhaps her most famous project was the ranch and guest houses commissioned by newspaper heir William Randolph Hearst in San Simeon.

It was a perfect example of Morgan’s relentlessness. For 28 years, she kept returning to perfect the unfinished Hearst Castle and its other buildings and pools, even acquiring the reindeer for its zoo, making a 400-mile round trip almost every weekend to the ranch 1,600 feet above sea level and set back five miles from the road.

Bottom line: When you think your task is monumental and that you’ve been doggedly persistent, remember Julia Morgan.

— Adapted from “Julia Morgan Helped Rebuild Shaken San Francisco,” Christina Wise, Investor’s Business Daily.

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