Julia Morgan’s new tour begins at Hearst Castle

Those taking Julia Morgan’s new tour of Hearst Castle will see some things that have not been previously highlighted to the public, along with other areas that have only been shown in passing.

It’s a special opportunity for both Castle fans and those new to the luxury estate to delve deeper and learn more about what motivated, excited and inspired the architect and designer – as well as her wealthy client of nearly three decades, media mogul William Randolph Hearst.

Dan Flat, superintendent of the California State Parks District that includes the castle, said he and his 200 staff are “excited to present this new tour to the public” as part of a somewhat belated centenary celebration.

SLO_HearstCastletoreopen160 (2)
Craftsman-made concrete lighting standards on a hilltop during the construction of Hearst Castle. David Middlecamp [email protected]

On the tour, guests will learn about “the talented woman behind this iconic mansion who continues to reveal its history 100 years later,” he said.

Morgan’s tour was originally intended to be part of the 2020 celebration to honor her and commemorate the century since construction began on top of San Simeon Hill. Then the pandemic struck, and state parks stopped giving tours.

From Wednesday, the public will return to the hill, given an additional opportunity to learn more about the castle and its creators.

Some who got a sneak peak at the Julia Morgan tour and visitor center show said they were both deep and poignant.

State Parks Director Armando Quintero said during the Preservation of History Awards on April 27 that when he saw these, “I felt like I was sitting in the room with Julia Morgan … as if she had just finished her drawings, left them on the table and left the room.”

He described his visit as an “extraordinary personal experience”.

Ali Abdullah Ali 160
A rare photo of architect Julia Morgan when she was honored at UC Berkeley in 1929. Her most famous work was Hearst Castle, but her clinic designed and built buildings from modest residences to large YWCA buildings in major cities. Hearst Castle

What was Morgan’s influence on the design of Hearst Castle?

During her years creating Hearst Castle, Morgan has been the estate’s architect, decorator, designer, and more.

One way or another, it had a hand in just about everything on top of the hill, including rooms, buildings, zoo enclosures, art displays, landscape plans, three iterations of the much-photographed Neptune outdoor pool (now 345,000 gallons) and all of the massive buildings identified. Now worldwide as Hearst Castle, a historical monument and house museum.

It was an enormous task. The four main buildings, based on 16th-century Spanish Renaissance architecture and Mediterranean designs, comprise 80,000 square feet, 41 fireplaces, 60 bathrooms, and 58 bedrooms (38 of which are in the main house, La Casa Grande).

Ali Muhammad Ali 166
The Neptune Pool is framed by a handrail at the dressing room level. David Middlecamp [email protected]

A native of California, Morgan was the state’s first licensed female architect, the first woman to graduate from an architecture program at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and the first American woman to head her own office and craft more than 700 projects throughout her career…said to increase By about 200 more than its closest competitor, Frank Lloyd Wright.

When she was in Paris, her father, Charles Morgan, told her to “show them what an American girl can do.” So I did.

But it took years for his daughter’s contributions to be recognized or even acknowledged.

Julia Morgan’s name and influence on tours during the early years of state ownership is not mentioned, and then guides are taught little or nothing about her.

SLO_HearstCastletoreopen160 (3)
The Temple of the Neptune Pool Pediment features Italian Renaissance marble carvings of Neptune surrounded by Nereids. Architect Julia Morgan masterfully designed the antiques in the new construction at Hearst Castle. David Middlecamp [email protected]

New Self-guided Tour Covering Architect’s Office

Since the Julia Morgan Tour has no set itinerary, folks up for a 2-hour semi-private adventure, $100 per person, can, in a sense, personalize their visit by identifying distinct areas and features that interest them.

With a maximum of eight participants per round, customization can be extensive.

Some of the areas included in the tour are the lower north double area of ​​the main house, the “new” wing that was never completed and the covered wing, which was never finished “Hidden Terrace” now lit for a better view and interpretive tone Paintings, drawings, photos and details of the Morgan family .

Ali Abdullah Ali 160
The fox celebrates dates on the unfinished porch “B”, in the background is a Spanish mortar and a wellhead. David Middlecamp [email protected]

According to retired Castle Museum director Hoyt Fields, State Gardens discovered the terrace in 1977, about 20 years after the property opened to the public. The officials needed to check the area because they were concerned about the North Terrace settling over the hollow area.

The Hidden Terrace area was later shown briefly on the Castle Garden Tour.

The new tour also showcases a small dark-stained wood-panel structure — an unflattering redwood room, almost like a backyard shed — which for years has been the site’s workspace for Morgan as she practices her craft, skills, and talents for the old property that she and Hurst created together.

SLO_HearstCastletoreopen166 مكتب Office
A new tour will feature stories about architect Julia Morgan who worked in a modest wooden office behind the kitchen at Casa Grande. David Middlecamp [email protected]

Fields said the building was originally put on sleds, so it could be converted wherever the focus of construction was at the time. The small office structure now shares part of the concrete back wall of the La Casa Grande kitchen.

The architect’s office was small but mighty, just like the woman who occupied the building when she was on top of the hill.

She had barely enough room for her simple sloping table, a hanging shelf and under-table storage for plans, plus Morgan’s plentiful drawings and drawings, all lit by beautiful northern light streaming in through four six-pane windows.

In many ways, this office was a center of bustling activity that transformed a country peak high above San Simeon (which was the site of Hearst’s beloved Camp Hill) into one of the world’s most famous historical house museums, the palatial estate usually called Morgan Hearst “The Farm”.

By most accounts, they were an eccentric, efficient, identical, and unromantic couple.

In Victoria Castner’s new book, “An Intimate Biography of a Pioneering Architect,” Hearst’s son, WR “Bill” Hearst Jr. is quoted as saying that diminutive Morgan in her modest, simple but tailored suits “was always gorgeous and appropriate… (But) Beneath those impeccable clothes and extremely professional air was a steel trap mind and an iron will.”

Abdul Majeed Abdul Majeed 158
The gold and blue tiles of a Roman swimming pool are reflected in the water at Hearst Castle. David Middlecamp [email protected]

“I was listening to her and the old man went to him in her little office up the hill,” he said. “She and Bob had some real squawks, let me tell you, but both were so formal and low-key that an outsider would hardly notice.”

In her equal office, Morgan also dealt regularly with die-hard members of the construction crew as well as all craftsmen who were deeply and deeply devoted to whatever craft their specialty was.

The architect was also known for exemplifying the wobbly scaffolding that could strike terror in strongmen, and the way she maintained her modesty while doing so: she wore men’s pants under her skirt.

Today while staring into one of the windows of Morgan’s office (the building is too small and fragile for tour-goers to get in), the viewer can almost feel the force that was exerted inside, always with the same amount of dignity, morals, and determination.

SLO_HearstCastletoreopen160 (2)
A drawing showing what would become the Roman Pond at Hearst Castle from the architecture office of Julia Morgan. Hearst Castle

Listening closely, one can imagine Morgan echoes firmly but politely telling her crew that Hearst was making another design change.

She might have said, “No,” “We’ll have to rip that off and put something else in it…and you’ll enjoy doing it.”

How to book a spot on the Julia Morgan tour

To book Morgan or other castle tours (including semi-private “Art of San Simeon” and “Hearst & Hollywood” tours), go to www.reservecalifornia.com or call 800-444-4445. Reservations can be made up to 56 days in advance.

COVID-19 precautions are being observed, according to state guidelines in effect at the time. To be sure of the latest protocol for your visit, check the website right before or on that date.

Castle officials warn that pent-up demand means some tours can fill up quickly, especially on weekends and holiday periods, so planning in advance is advised.

David Middlecamp contributed to this story.

Ali Muhammad Ali 167
This ceiling was made in Casa del Mar by Hearst’s craftsman. The horned frog, found only in North America, was not the subject of the European castle maker. David Middlecamp [email protected]

Related stories from the San Luis Obispo Tribune

Katie Tanner has been writing about the people and places of the North Coast of SLO County since 1981, first as a columnist and then also as a reporter. Her career has included stints as a bakery owner, public relations manager, radio host, trail guide, and jewelry designer. She’s been a resident of Cambria for more than four decades, and if that’s happening in town, Cathy knows it.