Expedition 5: Julia Morgan, East Bay

August 9, 2023. Julia Morgan was a prominent local architect who designed many buildings around here in the first half of the 20th century. Non-locals may know her as the designer of the Hearst Castle. My sister and I visited the Chapel of the Chimes on Saturday, a spectacular building designed by Morgan (so I didn’t include it here). I had plenty to see in the East Bay. May do an SF Morgan expedition someday. 

First I went to Mills College. The campus seems a bit run down. I used to visit often when I lived in the area. Maybe they stopped maintenance when they thought they were going out of business? There are lots of construction projects happening, I assume as a result of them controversially becoming part of Northeastern University. 

The bell tower El Campanil is made of reinforced concrete and houses ten bells. It was not damaged at all in the 1906 earthquake which apparently enhanced Morgan’s reputation. The bells still ring on the hour! The massive brick fireplace is in the student union. There’s another just like it on the other side of the room.

The Julia Morgan School for Girls (also on the Mills campus) started out as the Ming Quong Home, an orphanage for Chinese girls run by missionaries to protect the girls from human trafficking. It operated till the late 1950’s. It’s now a middle school just for girls. 

Next was King’s Daughter’s Home on Broadway which was pretty cool. It was a hospital for incurables, people with diseases like tuberculosis. Now it’s part of Kaiser. Peeking in the door I could see that the interior has been remodeled into generic blah. College Avenue Presbyterian Church is very pretty on the outside. I bet at least some of it looks great inside, but I wasn’t able to see.

Berkeley City Club is almost as cool architecturally as the Chapel of the Chimes. In 1930 it opened as the Berkeley Women’s City Club. In 1963 it opened its doors to men and changed its name. It’s still a club but it’s also a hotel and has an amazing pool! 

The grand finale (after dark) was the Hearst Women’s Gym (do you see a theme to Morgan’s creations?) on the UC Berkeley campus (Bernard Maybeck was the co-designer; he might get his own expedition). Like some other buildings, the interior has been modernized but the exterior is impressive. Originally, it provided places to sleep and rest for women students, as well as being a huge modern gym. The rooftop pool looks amazing; unclear whether it’s open to the public. 

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