Kaylee Scoggins Herring is a recent college graduate and an intern in Special Collections and Archives. This summer she is working on a project to digitize and make accessible online the correspondence between architect Julia Morgan and newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. This is the first of a series of blog posts in which she shares some of her experiences in the internship and the stories she uncovers.
My name is Kaylee, I’m a recent college graduate and an intern at Cal Poly’s Special Collections and Archives. As a San Luis Obispo local I grew up hearing about William Randolph Hearst and adoring every visit to the stunning Hearst Castle, especially during the holidays when the Castle is bedecked in all its Christmassy vintage glory. Therefore I was quite excited when, as a part of my internship, I was able to begin digitizing the correspondence between William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan.
The correspondence, which is part of the Julia Morgan Papers, includes approximately 3,700 letters and telegrams between Hearst and Morgan which Morgan kept in her files, dating from 1919 through 1945. Unlike most series of correspondence, wherein you can only see the letters received but not the ones sent, Julia Morgan made copies of every letter and telegram she sent Hearst. The resulting dialogue creates a clear story of the day-to-day planning that went into the construction of “La Cuesta Encantada,” or what is now known as Hearst Castle. Despite conversing through telegram and letter for over twenty years neither client nor architect ever addressed the other as anything less than “Mr. Hearst” or “Miss Morgan,” demonstrating the great professionalism between the first licensed female architect in California and the newspaper mogul.
The majority of the letters and telegrams I’ve read and digitized focus on the specific plans for the use of Spanish columns for one of the guest houses or Mr. Hearst’s preference for Moorish style ceilings, which mean little to a history major whose knowledge of Spain and the Moors has more to do with the brutalities of the Spanish Inquisition than the differences of architecture. However, I read a telegram from Mr. Hearst to Miss Morgan (shown below) which mentioned the impending arrival of a car filled with “four old Venetian paintings” as well as photographs of other friezes he had purchased, and which he hoped Miss Morgan would be able to use to “harmonize with the ceilings.” This telegram inspired me to find photographs of these items. Now I can better understand and imagine the slow process of building and decorating the guest houses which became the beautiful and recognizable Casa del Sol, Casa del Mar, and Casa del Monte.
See what we’ve digitized so far: http://digital.lib.calpoly.edu/islandora/search/010-5-e-?type=dismax