A podcast about history

That's not stuck in the past


Julia Morgan wasn’t just one of the most renowned architects of the 20th century, she was a true pioneer of her profession. She was the first woman to be admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, which was the most important architecture school of its era, as well as the first woman in California to earn an architecture license and eventually the first woman to win the American Institute of Architects’ highest honor. Then there’s her buildings. She’s best known for Hearst Castle, but over her long career she designed hundreds of impressive structures – the Berkeley City Club, Oakland’s YWCA, the Asilomar Conference Center, El Campanil at Mills College, and the list goes on and on. 

As a woman, Morgan didn’t always get the recognition she deserved, but in more recent decades, she’s been the subject of numerous books, documentaries, and museum exhibits. However, a new book takes a different approach by imagining Julia’s early years, as a young woman growing up in Victorian era East Bay. In “Drawing Outside the Lines,” Susan J. Austin tells the story of the architect’s formative time at Oakland High School and UC Berkeley during the 1880s and 90s. The book is a work of historical fiction, but Austin spent years on research in order to make the story as realistic as possible. In this episode, Susan J. Austin discusses her favorite Julia Morgan buildings, why she thinks Julia Morgan’s story will be relevant for young readers, and some of the famous figures, such as Gertrude Stein and Frank Norris, who make cameo appearances in “Drawing Outside the Lines.” Listen to the interview now via Apple, SoundCloud, Spotify, or wherever you get podcasts.

Julia Morgan’s design for Oakland’s YWCA building (1915) was inspired by Italian Renaissance architecture, specifically the Palazzo Medici Riccardi (1445-1455).
The Morgan Family moved to this Oakland house located at 754 14th Street in 1874. By the time Julia started designing homes in the early 1900s, this ornate Victorian style had fallen out of fashion (Illustration: Suzanna Klein, from “Drawing Outside the Lines“)
Oakland High, as it appeared between 1871-1895, when the school was located at Market and 12th Streets. While Julia was a student, this building was damaged by fire, a common occurrence of the era. (Illustration: Suzanna Klein, from “Drawing Outside the Lines“)
“Julia Morgan’s pool on the first floor of the Berkeley City Club is a masterpiece, with its sense of expanding space, light-filled arcades, and brilliant turquoise tiles… It’s enormous space is created by a series of five high, slightly pointed Gothic arches made of reinforced concrete.” – from “Julia Morgan’s Berkeley City Club: The Story of a Building” by Sarah Gill.
“My buildings will be my legacy… they will speak for me long after I’m gone.”
-Julia Morgan (January 20, 1872 – February 2, 1957)

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“What made Julia Morgan different?”

Exploring the early years of a superstar architect
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