EB Odds & Ends
A Newsletter of Eagles Byte Historical Research
November 1996, No. 14
They were born thirty years and half a continent apart. They were intelligent,
gifted and determined. One utilized her husband's wealth as a lever to help
remake society, the other tore down some walls as she raised others. Working
singly at first and sometimes in tandem later on, they altered the state
of California's appearance, its educational system and, even a few male
Phoebe Apperson was born on December 3, 1842, on a farm in Missouri. Like
many of her Midwest contemporaries, she taught in a frontier school. Then
she remade the acquaintance of a former neighbor, four years older than
herself, who probably had less education than many of her pupils. But George
Hearst didn't need book learning. George Hearst could smell minerals - precious
minerals. Local Indians referred to him as Boy-That Earth-Talked-To. And
when he returned from the Nevada silver fields a wealthy young man and again
saw the young child he'd carried around on his shoulders, now a petite school
teacher in her late teens, his instincts were as sound. They eloped and
were married in Stedman, Missouri, on June 15th, 1862, and remained in the
midwest for four months while George settled his recently-deceased mother's
estate. Then the young couple boarded a ship for the west coast. As their
vessel passed through the Golden Gate, she looked up at the seedy, raw El
Dorado that was San Francisco, and told George she intended to live on those
hills where she could always see the bay. Phoebe Apperson Hearst had fallen
in love a second time.
To paraphrase a William Dean Howells title, George Hearst was not afraid
to hazard new fortunes. And it paid off for this man the earth still talked
to, paid off rapidly in even newer fortunes. George and Phoebe prospered,
and when a son, William Randolph, was born the following year the silver
spoon, Harvard and fame awaited.
But it's not the men, George and William Randolph, that directly concern
us here. Money is a tool and the shy new mother with refined tastes became
adept in its use.
It was in 1872, while Phoebe was considering a trip to Europe for herself
and young William, that Julia Morgan was born in San Francisco, on January
20, to Charles and Eliza Parmalee Morgan. Attending grade school across
the bay in Oakland, Julia developed an interest in civil engineering, pursuing
her undergraduate degree in the field. Pierre Le Brun, a cousin of her mother's,
was an architect (among his commissions was New York City's Metropolitan
Life Insurance Tower). Perhaps his work stimulated her interest, as well
as her determination to become an architect. It should come as no great
surprise that women were not "supposed to be" interested in architecture
or capable of becoming architects in the 1890s. Not in the U. S. Certainly
not in Europe.
Tell that to the wall, or better yet, save your breath. Julia became the
first female graduate of the University of California to earn a civil engineering
degree. Encouraged by Phoebe Hearst and architect John Galen Howard (he
had gained a commission from The Phoebe Apperson Hearst Architectural Competition
to design a master plan for the University of California), she sailed for
Europe in 1896, traveling to Paris to enroll in the L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
When she arrived it was to find the "MEN ONLY" sign out. Siege
warfare ensued. Two years later, their excuses exhausted, the bastion's
defenders capitulated and Julia Morgan became the first woman to enroll
in the venerable school, and then earn its architecture certificate.
She'd been practicing her trade even as her studies had gone forward and,
after receiving her certificate, she returned to the family home, and began
an apprenticeship with Howard. She designed a bell tower for Mills College.
There were other commissions. Her career was off to a modest start. The
idea of a female architect, especially one with prestigious French schooling,
didn't seem too much of a hindrance. In 1903, partnered with Howard, she
helped design a mountain retreat for the Hearst family, then went on to
open her own office in 1904. Slanted against women at the turn of the century,
the playing field was starting to tilt upright. Suddenly, on April 18, 1906,
nothing else was upright in San Francisco.
George Hearst was fifteen years dead in 1906. Phoebe was visiting Paris,
out of danger. William Randolph, now owner and publisher of a large chain
of newspapers. suffered over a million dollar loss. After the rubble had
settled and the smoke had cleared, the city on the hill regained its momentum
and began to dig in. And rebuild. Hearst too immediately began to rebuild.
His San Francisco Examiner, buildingless, never missed an issue,
and W. R. plunged into relief work.
Julia Morgan obtained the contract to rebuild the Fairmont Hotel and never
looked back. She designed a large number of residences, mostly in the Craftsmen
style, as well as many works commissioned by women's groups such as the
YWCA, sororities, and women's colleges and community clubs. Along the way
she made herself an expert in the use of reinforced concrete.
During this time, Phoebe Hearst kept as busy as her son. Becoming a member
of the University of California Board of Regents, she worked to bring the
university its first women professors, sponsored scientific expeditions
and handpicked eminent anthropologist Alfred L. Krober to found a department
in his specialty. YWCAs in San Francisco and Los Angeles were instructed
to provide a shelter for those who could not afford to pay, and send her
a monthly bill. She backed the suffragette movement and national education
projects, helped plan the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition.
One day in July of 1916 Phoebe Hearst readied herself to march in the city's
Preparedness Day Parade. Anti-war feelings were high. A letter arrived in
the mail threatening to blow her up if she marched. Phoebe had never ducked
a challenge and she wasn't about to start at the age of 73. She marched.
A bomb did go off, killing and maiming a number of people. But not Phoebe.
She had passed the spot a few minutes earlier. Three years later pneumonia
did what a bomb could not. Her adopted and beloved city flew its flags at
Having inherited the family ranch at San Simeon after his mother's death
(not to mention $11,000,000) Hearst decided to build a mansion and
guest houses at the site he called Cuesta Encantata (Enchanted Hill). He
knew just the person to design and manage the project. With 450 buildings
including a number of Hearst residences, knowledge of reinforced concrete,
a civil engineering degree and the polish of a Parisian classical education
all under her tiny belt, Julia Morgan was the only choice. And she could
no more duck a challenge than Phoebe could. She was up to the design of
a 165-room, 127-acre estate to house W. R., thousands of precious antiques
and art objects, and an endless parade of movie stars, royalty, politicians
and journalists. She set to work.
She would work for several decades on San Simeon. She and W. R. conferred
for countless hours through the years. He was something like a film editor
with thousands of mental movie snippets from his life to cement together
into a coherent design. And the props, warehouses full of them, were accessible.
No monastery ceiling, Gothic castle fireplace or Byzantine tapestry was
to go unused. And it was up to this small unmarried woman with her horn-rimmed
glasses and Queen Mary hats to make it work. She did just that. No detail
went into the construction or decoration of the mansion until Julia approved.
She hired and supervised landscapers, construction teams and household staff.
She oversaw the building of the terraces, pools, zoo, and three guest houses.
Even the purchase of a vacuum cleaner passed through her office. The thousands
of treasures that poured in from Europe did so only after she had made the
arrangements for their shipment and Customs paperwork, then placed them
upon their arrival. When the gorgeous goods poured in faster than places
could be found for them or new wings built to house them, Julia Morgan arranged
for the excess to be loaned to area museums.
Hearst himself moved into his memory/art museum in 1927, living there until
the early years of World War II. It was in Beverly Hills, not San Simeon,
that he died in 1951. When Julia retired in the 1950s, San Simeon was still
uncompleted (her assistant George McClure would continue with the work).
She would outlive her client-collaborator by six years. Their greatest work,
now a State monument, still awes the thousands of tourists that visit California
The visitors view a California designed in part by Julia Morgan and Phoebe
PEARL OF AN URL
If you would like to check out some images of Morgan and Hearst's collaboration
you can take the WebTraveler Virtual
Tour of San Simeon at:
Follow the link to San Simeon to begin your virtual tour. The site gives
you the choice of full-screen images or small, faster-loading versions.
After you finish your tour you can back track for other attractions in California's
Big Sur area.
Last month I asked for the name of the author and title of a 1941 novel
featuring a meteorologist tracking a huge weather disturbance as it crossed
the U. S.
The author was George R. Stewart and the novel was titled Storm.
We had no winners.
The question for this month is:
In what foreign country was William Randolph Hearst at one time the leading
real estate owner ?
(The first person to e-mail me a correct answer by December 15th will receive
a free Eagles Byte chronology for any year of their choice)
Searching for events happening in the world of architecture in the first
three years of this century, we come across the following selections:
British archaeologist Sir Arthur John Evans begins excavating the royal
palace of Knossos, in Crete.
Chicago architectural engineer Dankmar Adler dies at the age of 55.
The dome of Paris' Sacre-Couer is inaugurated.
Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge's Union Station in Albany, New York, opens.
Boston - Symphony Hall is completed.
New York City - The Euclid Hall apartment building on upper Broadway is
France - Nice's Beaux Arts Hotel Negresco, designed by E. Niermans, opens.
London - Parliament passes the Private Act, purchasing Alexandra Palace
and Alexandra Park and creates a board of Trustees to administer them.
The Hall of Fame for Great Americans is dedicated, at New York University.
Albany, New York - The John Van Schaick Lansing Pruyn branch library on
North Pearl Street is dedicated.
Chicago - Louis Sullivan's Carson, Pirie & Scott Department Store is
Colorado - Ouray's city hall is built.
Montana - Stanford White's Butte house for Charles Clark is completed. It
will one day become the Arts Chateau.
New York City - Architect Henry Anderson designs the Semiramis apartment
on Central Park North. ** The city's New Law permits enforcement of housing
standards. ** The Astor family builds Harlem's Graham Court apartment building,
designed by Clinton & Russell.
New York State - Additions are begun to Batavia's Johnston Harvester Company
Texas - Fort Worth's Knights of Pythias Castle is built.
Washington, D. C. - Daniel H. Burnham and Charles McKIm are named to formulate
plan for the city.
Belgium - Vistor Horta designs Brussels' A'Innovation Department Store.
London - Architect James Brooks dies. His All Hallows Hampstead Church is
consecrated. ** G. H. Fellowes Prynne's All Saints Sydenham church is completed.
English architectural critic-historian Nikolaus Pevsner is born in Leipzig.
Architect Arne Jacobsen is born in Copenhagen.
Brazilian architect Lucio Costa is born in Toulons, France.
Architect Edward Durrell Stone is born in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
A subway tunnel under New York City's Park Avenue near 38th Street collapses,
destroying three mansions.
Architect-designer Marcel Breuer is born in Pecs, Hungary.
Architect Jose Luis Sert is born in Spain.
The bell tower in Venice's St. Mark's Square topples. No one is injured
but some art works are destroyed.
Architecture - Gustav Stickley introduces complete house plans into his
magazine The Craftsmen. ** Frank Lloyd Wright's W. W. Willits House,
in Highland Park, Illinois, is completed.
Indianapolis, Indiana - Frank M. Andrews' Claypool Hotel is built.
Missouri - Landscape architect Henry Wright begins work on plans for the
Louisiana Purchase Exposition, to be held in St. Louis.
New York City - Daniel Burnham's Flatiron Building is completed. ** Builder
Joseph Oussani moves into his newly completed Semiramis apartment house.
** Cass Gilbert's U. S. Customs House opens. ** Janes & Leo's Dorilton
apartment house at Broadway and 71st Street, built for Hamilton M. Weed,
is completed at a cost of $750,000. Critic Montgomery Schuyler disparages
the building in the Architectural Record. The building is fully rented.
Andrew Carnegie's East 91st Street neo-Georgian mansion is completed.
New York State - McKim, Mead and White's house for Clarence H. Mackay of
Roslyn, Long Island - Harbor Hill - is built. ** The 17th-century Mead Farm
House in Rye is refurbished.
Rochester, New York - Architect Claude Bragdon marries Charlotte Coffyn
Wilkinson of Syracuse.
Texas - Fort Worth's Livestock Exchange Building and the Swift & Company's
headquarters are constructed.
Paris - Auguste Perret's block of flats at 119 Avenue Wagram is completed.
- Aidala, Thomas R. - Hearst Castle, San Simeon (Hudson Hills, c. 1981)
- Boutelle, Sara Holmes - Julia Morgan, Architect (New York, Abbeville,
- Cordier, Mary Hurlbut - Schoolwomen of the Prairies and Plains (Albuquerque,
University of New Mexico Press, 1992)
- Fardon, G. R. - San Francisco in the 1850s (New York, Dover, 1977)
- Hewitt, Mark A. - The Architect and the American Country House, 1890-1940
(New Haven, Yale, c. 1990)
- Hudson, Karen & Williams, Paul R. - Architect: A Legacy of Style
- Longstreth, Richard W. - Julia Morgan, Architect (Berkeley Architectural
Heritage Association, 1977)
- Richey, Elinor - Eminent Women of the West
- Riley, Glenda - A Place to Grow: Women in the American West (Arlington
Heights, Illinois, Harlan Davidson, 1920)
- Roth, Leland - McKim, Mead & White, Architects New York, Rizzoli,
- Smith, Duane A. - Rocky Mountain Mining Camps: The Urban Frontier (Niwat,
Colorado, University Press of Colorado, 1992)
- Swanberg, W. A. - Citizen Hearst (New York, Scribner's, 1961)
- Torre, Susana - Women in American Architecture
* * *
Hope you enjoyed this issue of Odds & Ends. Please e-mail me with any
suggestions comments or questions, or just to say hello.
ODDS & ENDS INDEX