Julia Morgan’s 150th Birthday Celebration

January 20, 2022, 6 p.m.–7 p.m. on Zoom

Happy birthday, Julia Morgan! January 20, 2022, marks what would be the 150th birthday of renowned architect Julia Morgan! To celebrate, please join us for a presentation via Zoom by scholar Karen McNeill about Julia Morgan’s legacy designing institutions for women. McNeill’s research centers the development of Morgan’s Riverside YWCA (where RAM currently resides) as part of the transnational women’s movement in the 1920s. The story of the remarkable leadership of the Riverside women who made this project possible despite all challenges is not to be missed!  

Karen McNeill specializes in architectural history, receiving her PhD from UC Berkeley in 2006. Her scholarship on architect Julia Morgan explores the intersection of gender, reform, and the built environment during the Progressive Era. She has received numerous awards including a research fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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About our Julia Morgan building

Among the art museum’s greatest assets is its 1929 building and its blueprints, which are held in our Permanent Collection. Originally a YWCA, it is listed as a National Historic Site and designated as a City Landmark within downtown Riverside’s Mission Inn Historic District. Most notably, the building was designed by Julia Morgan (January 20, 1872–February 2, 1957), California’s first licensed female architect. Perhaps best known for her work at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Morgan was also the first woman to receive the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal Award in 2014.

The Riverside YWCA was one of more than 700 buildings designed by Morgan during her prolific career. Its signature reinforced-concrete construction provided a sturdy foundation for the Riverside Art Center (now the Riverside Art Museum) when they purchased the facility in 1967 and began the transformation into a robust hub for arts education and exhibitions.

Over the decades, RAM has worked to preserve Morgan’s design details, investing significantly in the building’s maintenance and improvements. In addition to individual donors, foundations such as the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Provident Bank, and the Wingate Foundation have championed the building’s importance as a regional museum, a cultural gathering space, and an architectural gem. We are grateful to these longtime supporters and are pleased to report that this summer we received an award from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Climate Initiative, a multi-year grant-making program designed to advance the goal of carbon neutrality in the visual arts. Over the coming months, a Frankenthaler-funded energy assessment, along with a Carpenter-funded historic structure report, will provide a framework as we look to the future preservation of our Julia Morgan building and its role as a vibrant 21st century museum.