The Old YWCA Building – Pasadena, California - Atlas Obscura

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The Old YWCA Building

A landmark for a trailblazer for female architects and the designer of one of the most famous and opulent buildings in California. 


Julia Morgan was a pioneer. She was the first woman to be admitted to the École de Beaux-Arts department of architecture in Paris, the first woman licensed as an architect in the State of California, and the designer of Hearst Castle in San Simeon, among many other landmark buildings. In the hopes of furthering opportunities for women, she also undertook a number of commissions for the YWCA, including the Pasadena YWCA in the Civic Center District.

The three-story Mediterranean-style structure was built in 1921, directly across the way from City Hall, and was one of five YWCAs that the San Francisco-based Morgan designed in Southern California. When the YWCA sold the building, its absentee landlord allowed the historic campus to languish as it sat vacant for nearly 14 years.

In 2011 the City of Pasadena, concerned about the lack of care and maintenance, invoked eminent domain over the property. Plans to convert the building to a boutique hotel have run into difficulties, but in 2020, the city entered into negotiations with a developer to further the project.

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