The jewel of Sacramento’s T Street is a 1920s-era Mediterranean Revival mansion designed by Julia Morgan, California’s most celebrated female architect. She was the first – and, to date, only – woman to receive the American Institute of Architects’ highest honor, the Gold Medal.
The 14-room, fully restored beauty known today as the Julia Morgan House Event & Conference Center was bequeathed in 1966 to Sacramento State’s nonprofit auxiliary, now called University Enterprises Inc. (UEI).
The mansion and its gardens are a popular venue for weddings, receptions, and meetings. And, it was the star attraction of Preservation Sacramento’s Sept. 11 home tour in the Elmhurst neighborhood.
The home’s long-accepted history holds that in 1918, socialite Lizzy Glide commissioned Morgan, California’s first female licensed architect, to design a $24,000 wedding gift for her daughter and son-in-law at 3731 T St. Six years later, Mary and Charles Goethe finally moved into their 7,200-square-foot home.
Catherine Turrill Lupi, a Sacramento State professor emerita of art, was the tour captain for the Julia Morgan House and has delved into Charles Goethe’s travel journals from the period when his home was conceived and constructed, looking for clues to its architectural accents.
“I realized that those diaries and the decorative details go together, in a way,” she says. “Written in tiny, precise script, Goethe’s pocket-size travel journals provide a vivid record of sites he visited on his trips to Europe in the 1910s and ’20s.
“The cast concrete trim framing the mansion’s doors and windows recalls the carved marble relief of Italian Renaissance palaces, with fanciful scrolls, shields, heads, and floral motifs. The twisted columns supporting the balcony above the front door are another Italianate detail, as are the paired dolphins in the capitals. Goethe admired Quattrocento sculpture, and the plaster replica of a relief by Luca Della Robbia over the living room mantelpiece is perhaps the best-known ‘Italian souvenir’ in the residence.”
It’s likely that the Goethes shared their design preferences with Morgan, an architect and civil engineer who had a hand in more 700 projects in California and Hawaii – including the design of numerous YMCAs, sanitariums, sorority houses, and churches, and repairing San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel after the 1906 earthquake and fire.
Morgan’s most ambitious undertaking was Hearst Castle near San Simeon where, for 28 years, she supervised nearly every aspect of its design and construction. She traveled there most weekends from her office in San Francisco.
In addition to the T Street mansion that bears her name, Morgan had one other local commission: the Sacramento Public Market, now the ground floor of the Sheraton Grand. Glide also hired her for that job.
Mary Goethe died in 1946, and when her husband died 20 years later, he left his longtime residence along with $650,000 and his personal papers to Sacramento State. He also bequeathed to the University Morgan’s 1921 blueprints and the photographs he took during the home’s construction.
The Julia Morgan House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. UEI completed a $1.7 million renovation to the historic home in 1999, to restore it to its original luster.
During the 2014 renovation, the original garage and a second-floor space were converted to conference rooms. Now, the mansion and its lush grounds thrive as an elegant destination for wedding couples and business groups.
“The Julia Morgan House Event & Conference Center is truly a hidden gem tucked in the heart of Sacramento,” says Michelle Quartarolo, sales and event manager. “The moment you walk into our doors, you know you’ve found what you’ve been searching for.” – Dixie Reid
To book the Julia Morgan House Event & Conference Center: juliamorganhouse.com