June 22, 2015

The Chinese Historical Society of America Building, Designed By Julia Morgan

Though many people know Julia Morgan as the architect of iconic Hearst Castle, she also designed buildings on more modest budgets. One of her best is the Chinese YWCA (1932) in San Francisco, now the Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA).

Purchased by the CHSA in 1996 and respectfully renovated a few years later, the elegant brick building serves as a source of pride for its current inhabitants.

“It’s exquisite,” says Sue Lee, executive director of the CHSA. “We are extremely honored that we’re in this building, because it’s so meaningful to the history of the community and so significant to women.”

The space includes an expansive gym that is frequently used as an exhibition space, a hand-painted ceiling in the entry lobby, and outdoor rooms that include a courtyard and a rear garden area. “They said they wanted a utilitarian building, and she designed a jewel for them,” Lee adds. “She must have been an extraordinary lady.”

The Julia Morgan-designed Chinese YWCA of San Francisco was built in 1932 and now houses the Chinese Historical Society.

Watch this video for an excerpt from an interview with Lee, recorded at the CHSA on March 2, 2015.

Headshot Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding is the executive editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for Midcentury Modernism, walkable cities, and coffee-table books about architecture and design.

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