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  • Writer's pictureJill

A Tour of the Berkeley City Club

We normally stay at an Airbnb when we visit Berkeley to see our granddaughter Abby and my daughter Jackie, and her husband. But this visit, our regular domicile was booked because it is graduation season! So, we opted for a hotel near the University, the Berkeley City Club, formerly, the Berkeley Women's City Club.

What a lovely adventure this was. While the accommodations may have been plush for the 1920's, they were definitely quaint for the 21st century. But we didn't mind. Built in 1930, the Berkeley Women's City Club was called Julia Morgan's "Little Castle," and so we enjoyed it with that in mind. It almost felt like we were staying at Hearst Castle, and truly, we wouldn't be far wrong in that, considering Julia Morgan was the architect for William Randolph Hearst's Castle in San Simeon!

Julia Morgan was an independent woman from the very beginning. Born in 1872, most young women of Julia Morgan's era would have been expected to marry and begin managing a household with children immediately after high school. Julia convinced her mother to let her attend UC Berkeley, which had just begun to admit women. There she enrolled in the civil engineering department. She graduated as the only woman in her engineering class from UC Berkeley with a degree in Civil Engineering.

After college she continued her studies at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. She was the first woman to be admitted to the prestigious school. After receiving her degree, she moved back to San Francisco, when her career really took off after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

While she is most famous for her design and architecture of Hearst Castle, in all, she designed over 700 buildings. And while the Berkeley City Club is only one of many, it is truly an extraordinary place, and in its day welcomed such famous women as Amelia Earhart, and others.

We were honored to be part of this historic place, if only for brief moment. And grateful to the strong woman who built it.


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