One of America’s most important and prolific architects, Julia Morgan had her offices at the Merchants Exchange for forty-five years (1904-1950). Her connection to the building began early in her career when firebrand architect Willis Polk tapped her to design the common area interiors after the great earthquake of 1906. She took the assignment seriously, making her most distinctive mark on the opulent, light-filled lobby and the breathtaking banking hall, which included the incorporation of the historic William Coulter maritime murals. Morgan’s most important work remains the La Cuesta Encantada (“Hearst Castle”) in San Simeon, California.
The first female architect to graduate from the École de Beaux-Arts in Paris, and the first licensed female architect in California, Julia Morgan designed over 700 buildings during her remarkable career. In addition to Hearst Castle, Wyntoon and other Hearst residences, Julia Morgan is the visionary behind Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, The Berkeley City Club, the Bow Bay House at Lake Tahoe, The Greek Theatre and the Mining Building at U.C. Berkeley, and San Francisco’s famous Livermore house. For more information on Morgan and the Merchants Exchange, view the documentary on the building at the Merchants Exchange building’s website.