VLN: Excursions: Julia Morgan in San Francisco 1 2 (1914-1922) 3


The extant commissions executed by Julia Morgan between 1914 and 1922 include restorations, institutional designs, and original residential projects.

Morgan restored a private home for The Century Club of California, which for two years after the 1906 fire and earthquake housed the State Supreme Court. She also remodeled the Victorian John Brickell house, one of the few houses on the south side of the 1000 block of Green street on Russian Hill that survived the 1906 fire.

The institutional designs include the Potrero Hill Community Center, commissioned by the Presbyterian church, the Emanuel Sisterhood Residence Sisterhood (now the San Francisco Zen Center) in the lower Haight, and the Katherine Delmar Burke School (now the San Francisco University High School).

The timeless quality of Morgan's planning in all three cases has allowed the buildings to remain in continual use for well more than half a century without becoming outdated, either in appearance or functionality.

Among the residential designs, the Tudor style Abraham Rosenberg house in Presidio Heights remains one of San Francisco's fine houses.

1914, Civic Center, Century Club of California,
1335 Franklin St., San Francisco
Julia Morgan.

A chaste Classic Revival facade, originally a private home that for two years after 1906 housed the State Supreme Court of California (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 113).

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1915-16, Forest Hill, Miss Alice Gay house: repairs,
196 Clarendon St., San Francisco
Julia Morgan.

Designed by Bernard Maybeck (Boutelle 1988: 257).

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David Atkins (originally, John Brickell) house
1915-16, Russian Hill, David Atkins (originally, John Brickell) house,
1055 Green St., San Francisco
Julia Morgan.

This is an Italianate House built originally in 1866 and remodeled by Julia Morgan 1916 (Gebhard, David, Robert Winter and Eric Sandweiss 1985: 54).

Russian Hill's Green Street has the distinctive flavor that we like to think of as singularly San Franciscan. The John Brickell house...is one of the row in the 1000 block of Green Street that were saved from the flames in 1906. Julia Morgan remodeled it in 1916; the name and the date of remodeling are inscribed on the keystone over the front door. Today it has a very different fašade (Alexander and Heig 2002: 109).

In 1915-16 Morgan had made a similar alteration for David Atkins, an importer of artworks, whose daughter, Avesia, was a draftsperson in Morgan's office. In this adaptation Morgan removed the upper floors of a Victorian house on Green Street in San Francisco, changed the fenestration to three tall arched windows in the center, and added an ironwork balcony over the front arched entrance. A wide frieze under a projecting cornice banded the whole, while the low-pitched symmetrical hipped roof works as a pediment for the façade.

David Atkins house: remodeling of Victorian house into Italianate residence (Boutelle 1988: 160, 257).

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Abraham Rosenberg house Abraham Rosenberg house
1916-17, Pacific Heights, Abraham Rosenberg house,
3630 Jackson St., San Francisco
Julia Morgan.

In 1916 Abraham Rosenberg, who had made a fortune in dried fruit in the Fresno area, commissioned a Pacific Heights mansion that is still one of San Francisco's fine houses. The concrete structure timbered with redwood has a side entrance from a brick terrace. The Tudor arched doorway has stone pilasters that continue across the arch as ribbing. The downstairs windows, framed in timber, are mullioned, while on the second story a bank of windows following the corner above the entrance is framed by arches that repeat the line of the doorway. In the reception hall-an exceptionally elegant space paneled and beamed in gumwood that is larger than most living rooms-one can see through the dining room to the garden. The original gleam of hardwood floors complemented by the richness of Oriental rugs has been smothered in contemporary carpeting. The house served at one point as a Nepalese consulate, functioning easily in that semiofficial capacity; it is now a private residence again (Boutelle 1988: 152-53, 257).

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San Francisco University High School
1916, Presidio Heights, S. F. University High School (formerly, Katherine Delmar Burke School),
3065 Jackson St., San Francisco
Julia Morgan.

The School's original building, designed by the architect Julia Morgan, was constructed in 1917. Its Italianate architecture is compatible with the residential character of its Pacific Heights neighborhood. Completely renovated to strict seismic codes in 1975, the original facility houses classrooms, administrative and faculty offices, and student lounges (S. F. University High School: School History).

The Katherine Delmar Burke School, another college-preparatory school originally for girls, occupies a generous site in the Pacific Heights are of San Francisco, its Mediterranean style blending well with the streetscape. Designed in 1916, it has a plan that follows decidedly Beaux-Arts rules. The glazed interior courtyard (which would have been left open in a more Mediterranean climate) is well suited to the moderate Bay Area weather, and there is a pleasingly rhythmic relationship of inside to outside that is characteristic of Morgan at her best. The courtyard, with fountain and flower bed at the center, is visible from the formal entrance. Wide corridors with vaulted ceilings (squared off, alas, in a recent remodeling) and expansive windows form the sides of the building. Circulation through the library on one side and a hall on the other leads to classrooms at the sides. The second floor has similar halls with loggia classrooms that were originally open but have now been glazed. The axis and cross axis function easily, and it is an impressive structure to walk through. The building now serves as an independent coeducational high school with a program very similar to what has worked well for seventy years (Boutelle 1988: 66, 67, 138).

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1917, St. Francis Wood, Dixwell Davenport house,
195 San Leandro Way, San Francisco
Julia Morgan.

(Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 173).

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1916-17, Russian Hill, Helen (Mrs. Horatio) Livermore Shingle House,
1023 Vallejo St., San Francisco
Julia Morgan.

(Gebhard, David, Robert Winter and Eric Sandweiss 1985: 55).

Besides her amazing act as a juggler of artifacts for William Randolph Hearst at San Simeon, there are two Morgan buildings of the teens which provide opportunities to speculate about other directions her work might have taken. In the Livermore house of 1917 it becomes clear that Morgan was aware not only of the anonymous qualities of vernacular design, but also of that awkwardness which sometimes informs vernacular buildings with such forcefulness. The Livermore house could be a building block dropped on a hillside by a careless child. Tucked in behind Willis Polk's house on Russian Hill, it is a small house providing the accommodations of a large apartment.

The main floor originally contained a large living room and a bedroom and bath, the floor below a dining room and kitchen. The house is now somewhat larger than originally; it was altered slightly by Morgan in 1927 and again in 1930. With its casual placement on a steep hillside, its pronounced vertical organization, its hillside-to-house entrance bridge, its exploitation of the forceful clumsiness of some vernacular designs, and its almost total suppression of decorative devices, the Livermore house comes closer to fulfilling the requirements for Keeler's "Simple Home" than the work of Maybeck, Coxhead, or Polk (Beach 1988: 72-73).

An urban house that transformed simple Crafts origins into sophisticated, even daring design was built in San Francisco in 1916-17 for Mrs. Horatio Livermore. The Livermore family, prominent in San Francisco and in the Livermore Valley to the east, had large landholdings, including a family farm at the summit of Russian Hill in the city. Russian Hill Place, between Vallejo and Florence streets, was a private enclave with several notable houses. In the 1890s Willis Polk had built a house for himself there and remodeled the original Livermore house of 1860; in 1916 he built four houses for the Livermore family. Helen Livermore, for whom Morgan had built a house (Montesol) on the family ranch in the Livermore Valley, commissioned her to design a pied-Ó-terre at the edge of the family compound.

As built in 1916-17, it was a two-story rectangle, with hall, bedroom, bath, and living room on the main floor, and stairs leading down to the dining room and kitchen. In 1927 and 1930 Morgan added an L-shaped addition to the uphill side, with another bedroom, bath, and study space; but it is still a small house (even after a 19081 addition by Livermore's step-grandson, Putnam), immeasurably enlarged by its views. Simple and vertical in plan, designed for a special kind of city living, it seems to be only tenuously connected to the city by a footbridge. Its large circular windows set in great squares are a reminder of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition's YWCA Building, from which Morgan salvaged them (according to family legend). The only decorative touch in an otherwise austere exterior, these windows emphasize the significance of the outlook for which the whole building was planned.

Additions by Morgan, 1927 and 1930; remodeled by Putnam Livermore, 1981 (Boutelle 1988: 140, 257).

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1921-22, St. Francis Wood, Reverend Robert Donaldson house,
67 San Leandro Way, San Francisco
Julia Morgan.

(Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 173).

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Potrero Hill Neighborhood house
1922, 1925, Potrero Hill, Potrero Hill Community Center,
953 De Haro St., San Francisco
Julia Morgan.

This neighborhood house was established in 1919 by the Presbyterian Church to serve the Russian immigrants who had been settling on the hill since 1905. Morgan's reputation for designing successful small institutional buildings won her this job, which she executed with her usual concern for context in the informal design of this rustic shingled building with a welcoming entry and lobby areas (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992:155).

At the turn of the century a new ethnic contingent settled on Potrero Hill when some two thousand Russian immigrants, mainly from the Volga and Caucasus regions, arrived after fleeing Czarist oppression. Known as the Molokani ("the milk drinkers"), they were a puritanical sect who worshiped at a modest little church where the women and men were segregated during services. At the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, designed by Julia Morgan, the Russians took classes in the English language and learned how to use sewing machines. The charming, brown-shingled Neighborhood House, at 953 De Haro Street, is still in use today as a meeting hall and cultural center. It is an official San Francisco Landmark (Alexander and Heig 2002: 185).

Under the Executive Director, Enola D. Maxwell, the Neighborhood House continues to be a safe and turf-free environment, where all members of the community participate in over 30 programs and activities offering an array of social services to low income residents of Potrero Hill and to other communities in San Francisco year round, including: Juvenile Probation Programs: Intensive Home Base Supervision (LaVette Virden, case manager), Omega Boys Club and Peer Counseling Services (Jack Jacqua, co-founder), Zap Project (Martha Henderson, director), Head Start (Dave Pearson, director), SFUSD Tutorial Services in collaboration with Enola D. Maxwell Middle School (James Johnson, coordinator), Experiment in Diversity, MYEEP (Camille Wilson, coordinator), Good Faith Employment Program (Edward Hatter and Ben Bailon, heads), Golden Gate Regional Center (Katherine Rairigh, manager), and Social Development Center and the Senior Adaptive Centers (Potrero Hill Neighborhood House Programs and Activities. 2001. Potrero Hill Neighborhood House).

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Zen Center
1922, West Mission, Zen Center (formerly, Emanu-el Sisterhood Residence),
300 Page St., San Francisco
Julia Morgan.

This is one of Julia Morgan's most gracious small institutional buildings, originally designed as the Emanuel Sisterhood (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992:136).

Dorothy Wormser, associate architect (Boutelle 1988: 259).

In between commissions from the YWCA, Morgan designed another landmark building to aid young workingwomen. Similar to the YWCA buildings in program was the Emanu-el Sisterhood Residence at Page and Laguna streets in San Francisco. The Jewish women's group asked Morgan in 1921 to design a residential facility with assembly rooms, gymnasium, and other recreational features. The three-story brick building (plus basement) is on a difficult corner site, with hills at different angles on the two street sides. The façade is formal, with broad steps used to give a level base to the slope. The windows are spaced and framed in classical Beaux-Arts symmetry. The entrance leads to a formal hall that provides the central axis, with a large assembly room to the right and offices to the left. Tables and chairs built by Morgan's craftsmen to her designs are still in use after sixty-five years. Across the large courtyard, in the center of which a fountain was originally located, a parallel wing serves as classrooms and living space. The cross axis marked by a broad staircase leads up to the living spaces and down to the gymnasium, with natural lighting on the landings both above and below the main level. After wartime duty as headquarters for female military personnel, the building was bought in the 1950s to serve as the San Francisco Zen Center (Boutelle 1988: 106-07, 259).

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