Julia Morgan, born in San Francisco in 1872, became one of the first women to graduate from the University of California at Berkeley with a civil engineering degree. In 1902 she became the first woman ever to win a certificate from the architectural school of one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. When she returned to California, she became its first female architect.
By 1926, when she began the Stonedene renovation, she was well established and well respected with some very important clients. She was a prolific worker, generally managing three or even four projects at a time. During the Stonedene renovation, she was also working on the San Simeon Hearst Castle project, one of the most elaborate residences in the world, for William Randolph Hearst.
Morgan based her renovation on the original design of Stonedene, the work of the German stonemasons having met her exacting engineering demands. As a result, the pioneer structure was preserved in many respects, even the gingerbread. The stonework of the pioneer building was duplicated exactly, even to cutting the stone from the original quarry and making certain the blocks were the same size and cut in the same style as that used by the German stonemasons.
The wooden porch and shutters were removed. A one story solarium was added to the entire south side of the original structure and a long two and a half story wing was added to the back, or west side, including a large basement as the site sloped away. The front of the building was reoriented to face north. A new slate roof and central heating plant were installed.
The many small rooms of the old house were consolidated into larger rooms. Both the ground floor and upstairs parlors, or living areas, had magnificent native stone fireplaces installed. Four modern full baths and two half baths were installed. The floors were narrow custom oak planks throughout and laid by Scandinavian craftsmen. The oak floors in the important rooms were inlaid with other woods. Morgan also added interesting interior details such as arches, coved ceilings, textured plaster walls and beautiful fixtures throughout. When the house was finished it had over forty windows, twenty being tall floor-to-ceiling double French windows, filling the building with natural light, one of the architect's hallmarks.
The size of the original house had been more than doubled to 10,500 square feet with twenty-five rooms.
This is the plaque of the Three Ships, the Morgan Studio trademark, made by Morgan herself, and put on all her buildings. The Stonedene plaque is located just above the Morgan north front door, under the blue awning.
A stick built one and a half story four bay carriage house faced in stucco was constructed perpendicular to the new main entrance of the house.
Once the expansion was finished in 1929, Stonedene offered ample living space for all the Martins - Samuel and his wife, his sister May and her family and their mother, Carrie. The renovation had turned the house into a large up and down duplex with each unit having a living room, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms and baths, with the solarium for the enjoyment of all.
Julia Morgan's work on Stonedene is a masterpiece and has been recognized as such by the National Register of Historic Places. The dividing line between the original house finished in 1861 and the addition finished in 1929 is fluid and completely undetectable. It is impossible to tell that the house was remodeled and expanded more than 60 years after its initial construction. Morgan's work transformed a fine native stone pioneer building into a mansion, a monumental landmark.