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Cal Landmark Gets a Really Big Lift

A University of California at Berkeley landmark designed by famed architect Julia Morgan is moving uphill on Sunday to a new home in the UC Botanical Garden. Its history is entwined with gender politics at Berkeley a century ago.

The interior of the Julia Morgan-designed Senior Women's Hall at UC Berkeley around 1912. Shown is the first "Senior Singing" gathering. Source: Class of 1914 Blue and Gold yearbook
The interior of the Julia Morgan-designed Senior Women's Hall at UC Berkeley around 1912. Shown is the first "Senior Singing" gathering. Source: Class of 1914 Blue and Gold yearbook
If you see a building wending its way up Strawberry Canyon Sunday morning, you'll be witness not to a heavy heist but a historic hoist.

UC Berkeley plans to move two main parts of a 103-year-old campus landmark designed by noted architect Julia Morgan from the main campus to a new site in the UC Botanical Garden.

The modest-sized, two-story structure – now officially known as Girton Hall –  began life as rustic lodge with a big fireplace and interior room designed to be the first dedicated building for Cal's large number of female students, who made up 40 percent of the 2,516 undergrads in the 1906-07 academic year yet often had to endure second-class status because of their gender. 

Called Senior Women's Hall, the structure was built in 1911,  nine years before American women won the Constitutional right to vote. A detailed history of the building, whose official name is Girton Hall, can be found in a 2011 Historic Structure Report posted on the campus website.

Morgan, an alumna of UC Berkeley and the only woman in her civil engineering class, designed the building in the style called Bay Region, or First Bay Tradition, in marked contrast to the neo-classical grand Beaux Arts design that dominates most of the campus.

Senior Women's Hall originally sat further uphill and underwent an earlier relocation 160 feet west in 1946 to its current home in a sunken wooded grove. Its location now is on the immediate west side of Gayley Road and on the north side of the Haas School of Business. 

In 1970, it became a campus childcare center.

Though it has undergone renovations over the years, it is listed on national and state historic registers and is a City of Berkeley landmark. 

A relatively smaller chunk of the building was moved last weekend (as shown on this video), and the two bigger sections will travel to their new location between 8 and 10:30 a.m., Sunday, according to the campus.

"The building will be stitched back together and will reopen, just east of the garden’s main gate, in late summer or early fall for conferences, exhibits, alumni events, weddings and the like," the campus said in a news release.

The release also provided the following information about Julia Morgan:

"Morgan’s American Craftsman-style work can be seen across campus. She was the primary designer of the Greek Theater and provided the decorative touches on the elegant Hearst Mining Building. In the Bay Area, Morgan also designed St. John’s Presbyterian Church (now the Berkeley Playhouse), the landmark Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, which she was asked to redesign after the 1906 earthquake, and several Mills College buildings in Oakland. Her most famous design is Hearst Castle in San Simeon.
 
"Morgan was the only woman in her civil engineering class at UC Berkeley and the first woman admitted to the architecture program at Beaux-arts de Paris, l’école nationale supérieure. She also was the first woman architect licensed in California. In December, Morgan became the first woman to receive the American Architecture Association’s Gold Medal, when the honor was awarded to her posthumously."

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