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Nearly 100 people gathered at the Levy Senior Center Sept. 12 to hear Annette Baldwin tell the story of the “Magnificent Collaboration” between architect Julia Morgan and her client, William Randolph Hearst.
Sponsored by the Levy Senior Center Foundation and free for attendees, “Magnificent Collaboration” was the first lecture of the Fall Levy Lecture Series.
Ms. Baldwin calls her talks “Visual Journeys,” and her liberal use of slides brings her narration to life.
Ms. Baldwin is uniquely qualified to tell the story of Julia Morgan’s career and how it was impacted by her most famous client. Ms. Baldwin is the former editor of the Chicago American Institute of Architects, as well as a doyenne of women who lived from the mid-19th through the 20th centuries. Ms. Baldwin’s scholarly yet lively research shows how each subject had a distinctive impact on the world.
By example, Julia Morgan was one of the most widely known architects in her day. Holding a degree in civil engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, she was the first woman to graduate from the architecture department of the prestigious École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Ms. Morgan was more prolific than Frank Lloyd Wright, producing more than 700 buildings throughout her 50-year career.
After meeting in the early 1900s, Ms. Morgan and Mr. Hearst formed an almost symbiotic relationship that spanned more than three decades. The culmination was designing, building, decorating, and furnishing La Cuesta Encantada, Spanish for “The Enchanted Hill,” the building more commonly known as the Hearst Castle, at San Simeon, Cal.
Mr. Hearst referred to La Cuesta Encantada as his “country home.” It is set high on a hilltop and ultimately encompassed a main building, three guest houses, and multiple pools, fountains, and gardens spread across 127 acres. Fortunately for Mr. Hearst, for many years his lavish taste was accommodated by his robust financial resources. He thought nothing of asking work to be redone if he changed his mind about the location of something like a fireplace or a window, and on occasion changed his mind back again, having decided that the first way was indeed preferable. He imported boxcars of furniture, paintings, tapestries, statuary, marble, and fabric to the hilltop and worked closely with Morgan to incorporate his art collection throughout the estate.
Mr. Hearst lived at Hearst Castle until 1947, when he left to seek specialized medical care. He never again lived in the home he loved so much. He died a few years later, in 1951. Ms. Morgan retired in the early 1950s and lived as a recluse until her death in 1957.