Annette Baldwin is a Chicago-based Chautauquan who performs as historical figures like Coco Chanel and Susan B. Anthony. She'll be performing as architect Julia Morgan at the Nevada Humanities Chautauqua festival on June 24-27 at Bartley Ranch Regional Park, 6000 Bartley Ranch Road. Baldwin did this interview in character as Morgan. For more information, visit www.nevadahumanities.org.
I don’t really know who Julia Morgan is …
That’s all right. I’m going to give you a quote. I don’t usually do interviews. Did you know that, Mr.—what was your last name? I usually don’t use first names. I’ve known Mr. Hearst now for 20 years, and it’s always Ms. Morgan and Mr. Hearst. I hope you don’t think I’m being presumptions or rude, young man, but could you please give me your last name.
Would you spell that please? I like being exact. I think it’s important. If you’re going to put a building up, then you must be absolutely confident that you have done all of your homework, made every effort to make sure that building will stand for as long as necessary. So you will spell your last name for me, won’t you?
It’s bee, why, en, you, em.
Very good. Thank you, Mr. Bynum. How else can I help you? I generally don’t do interviews.
Well, thank you for the honor.
As for not knowing who I am, I don’t expect you to. My buildings will speak for themselves.
You worked on the Hearst Castle, is that correct?
Absolutely. I’ve been working—well, what year is this? It’s 1937, well, we’ve been working on that 20 years now, Mr. Hearst and I, our collaboration, San Simeon. We never refer to it as the castle. That’s a misunderstanding among the general public. It is San Simeon or La Cuesta Encantada. … “The Enchanted Hill.” …
What are some other buildings that you did?
I’ve had a strong client-architect relationship with YWCA. Have you ever been to the Monterey Peninsula? You have. Are you well aware of Asilomar? Well, Asilomar was originally put up for the YWCA. We began that in 1913. About 16 buildings in 15 years at Asilomar. It was built under the auspices, not financial endowment, of Phoebe Apperson Hearst, Mr. Hearst’s mother. She was instrumental in acquiring the land—having the land donated to the YWCA. It was built, and I was honored to be a part of it, to be the summer conference center for the YWCA leaders. I have a number of YWCA projects in the Western United States. One in Honolulu. One in San Diego. And three, I believe it is, in San Francisco. Many women’s organization buildings. The Berkeley Women’s City Club, for example. … I have, right now, in 1937, over 500 buildings.
Architecture was kind of an unusual profession for a woman, correct?
Oh, well, I never saw it that way. I never ever thought that way. I never thought that brains or talent had a gender. … Everyone thought it was peculiar. I never thought that. If a job is to be done, you simply do it. I always took up the challenge. I adore challenges. It’s what keeps a person alive and thriving, a real purpose for living. And I do hope that people will pay attention to the buildings that they pass by. Pay attention to them. How do they make you feel when you pass by or more importantly when you go into them? What do you feel? Does it serve its purpose? That’s the question that’s most important to me. The building must be there for its purpose. You must build from the inside out. In other words, what are the activities that are contained within the walls? You plan that, and then you build the structure according to the activity going on in that building.