Restrictions on Use and Reproduction
Scope and Content Note
Title: Walter T. Steilberg Collection
Date (inclusive): 1908-1974 (bulk 1918-1935)
Collection number: MS 144
Steilberg, Walter T., 1886-1974
Abstract: Collection of architect and engineer Walter T. Steilberg, who worked for Julia Morgan in the 1920s and 1930s, including vintage
photographic prints of Morgan projects and Steilberg's published and unpublished recollections of Morgan and her practice.
Special Collections, Robert E. Kennedy Library
California Polytechnic State University
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
Donated in 2000, the Morgan-Steilberg Collection is housed in and administered by Special Collections at Cal Poly.
Collection is open to qualified researchers by appointment only. For more information on access policies and to obtain a copy
of the Researcher Registration form, please visit the Special Collections Access page.
Restrictions on Use and Reproduction
The materials from this collection are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright
law. Photocopying of material is permitted at staff discretion and provided on a fee basis. Photocopies are not to be used
for any purpose other than for private study, scholarship, or research. Special Collections reserves the right to limit photocopying
and deny access or reproduction.
For use other than private study, scholarship, or research, including permission to reproduce, publish, broadcast, exhibit,
and/or quote from this collection, researchers must submit a written request and obtain permission from Special Collections
as the owner of the physical collection. Researchers should also consult with an appropriate staff member regarding specific
literary or other intellectual property rights pertaining to this collection. The researcher assumes full responsibility for
any use of the materials. Permission to reproduce, publish, broadcast, or exhibit is granted by separate licensing agreement
on a fee basis.
[Identification of Item]. Morgan-Steilberg Collection, Special Collections, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis
c.f.: cubic feet
FF: flat file
n.d.: no date
n.p.: no publisher
The National Endowment for the Humanities has generously funded the arrangement and description of this collection, along
with matching funds from California Polytechnic State University.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Architecture -- California.
Architects -- California -- Correspondence.
Architecture, Domestic -- California -- San Francisco Bay Area.
Architecture, Domestic -- California -- San Simeon.
Berkeley (Calif.) -- Buildings, structures, etc.
Hearst Castle (Calif.) -- History.
Hearst, William Randolph, 1863-1951 -- Homes and haunts.
Hearst-San Simeon State Historical Monument (Calif.)
Morgan, Julia, 1872-1957
Morgan, Julia, 1872-1957 -- Archives.
Morgan, Julia, 1872-1957 -- Career in Architecture.
Oakland (Calif.) -- Buildings, structures, etc.
Pacific Grove (Calif.) -- Buildings, structures, etc.
Panama-California Exposition, (1915 : San Diego, Calif.)
Panama-Pacific International Exposition, (1915 : San Francisco, Calif.)
San Francisco (Calif.) -- Buildings, structures, etc.
San Simeon Ranch (Calif.) -- History.
San Simeon (Calif.) -- Buildings, structures, etc.
Steilberg, Walter T., 1886-1974.
Genre and Forms of Materials
Vintage photographic prints
Special Collections, Cal Poly:
Julia Morgan Papers, 1836-1858 (MS 10)
Julia Morgan—Sara Holmes Boutelle Collection, 1877-1958 (MS 27)
Sara Holmes Boutelle Papers, 1972-1999 (MS 141)
The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley:
Julia Morgan Architectural Drawings, 1907-1929 (BANC MSS 71/156 c)
Correspondence Concerning the Phoebe Hearst Architectural Plan for the University of California, 1896 Oct 22-23 (UARC 308gh.cor)
Environmental Design Archives, UC Berkeley:
Julia Morgan Collection, 1893-1980 (1959-2)
Julia Morgan/Forney Collection, 1907-1931 (1983-2)
Julia Morgan-Walter T. Steilberg Collection, ca. 1910-1974 (1973-1)
Special Collections, UCLA:
Harriet Rochlin Collection of Material about Women Architects in the United States, 1887-1979 (1591)
Walter T. Steilberg, noted California architect and engineer, was born on May 12, 1886, in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1890,
his parents, Willie and Matilda, relocated the family to San Diego County, where they took up ranching.
As a young man, Steilberg worked briefly for architects Irving Gill and Myron Hunt. While studying for his architecture degree
at UC Berkeley, Steilberg joined the practice of John Galen Howard as a drafter, participating in the design of Wheeler Hall,
the UC Library, and the president's house. After graduation in 1910, Steilberg worked for Julia Morgan for a year, upon the
advice of architect Arthur Brown. Steilberg rejoined Morgan's practice in 1918, and continued to consult for her through the
1930s, even after he left to start his own practice.
According to the biographical statement of the Environmental Design Archives at UC Berkeley, "Steilberg had just built a home
for himself and his family on Panoramic Hill when the influenza pandemic of 1918 took his mother; his wife, Rowena – an artist
who designed detailing for some of his projects – and his newborn daughter. 'Miss Morgan knew just what to do for me,' he
told [architectural historian Sally] Woodbridge. 'She had me working about 16 hours a day.' Steilberg gave the home he had
designed for himself and Rowena to her parents, then built another for himself nearby, where he lived with his second wife
and raised a family. Panoramic Hill became Steilberg country, dotted with homes he built for clients and friends."
While working for Morgan, Steilberg directed the stone-by-stone dismantling of the Santa Maria de Ovila monastery, a thirteenth-century
structure built by Cistercian monks on a hilltop, overlooking the Tagus River in Spain, about 90 miles northeast of Madrid.
The monastery building was shipped to San Francisco, where Morgan and Hearst contemplated its use at Wyntoon. When the plans
were dropped for lack of funds, Morgan convinced Hearst to give the stones to the city of San Francisco for a medieval museum
to rival Manhattan's Cloisters. Morgan contributed additional plans and by 1941, the city had selected a site in Golden Gate
Park. After a series of arson fires at the warehouses obliterated the markings on the stones, the city lost enthusiasm for
the project. This last great collaboration between Morgan and Hearst was never realized.
According to a 2005 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, in the 1930s "Steilberg experimented with concrete houses, influenced
by the destruction wrought by the Berkeley fire of 1923, and the Santa Barbara earthquake of 1925. The Depression also affected
his thinking, grandson Jonathon Dwyer says. He also saw concrete houses as an economical way to provide housing for workers
and, after World War II, for returning veterans and their growing families. Steilberg developed and patented a system he dubbed
'Fabricrete' that involved hollow concrete walls troweled onto steel mesh. When he couldn't get sufficient financing, he turned
to a local building firm, Pacific Coast Aggregates, and designed structures using their large (3-foot-long) Berkeley Concrete
Bricks. He also designed buildings using precast 4-by-8-foot concrete grids."
During World War II, Steilberg kept in touch with Julia Morgan when he relocated to Alaska to serve as an instructor for the
Seabees. During the 1950s, he worked extensively in Saudi Arabia for Aramco.
Steilberg died at the age of 88 on December 6, 1974, succumbing to injuries after being struck by a car while walking near
the UC Berkeley campus.
Reiss, Suzanne B., "The Work of Walter Steilberg and Julia Morgan," Vol. 1, Regional Oral History Office of UC Berkeley, 1974.
Weinstein, Dave. "'Julia Morgan': 'Earthquake Ambulance Chaser' Also Designed Economical, Romantic, 'Slightly Mediterranean'
San Francisco Chronicle 3 Dec. 2005. 20 Feb. 2007 <http://www.sfgate.com/cgi- n/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/12/03/HOGU5G0P0G1.DTL&hw=morgan+engineer&sn=003&sc=558>
Scope and Content Note
The Walter T. Steilberg Collection contains photographs and files relating to Julia Morgan commissions in the Bay Area, created
by long-time staff member and engineer Walter T. Steilberg.
Project files and project photographs are arranged alphabetically by client name, followed by building type, city and date
of construction. Cities listed on folder headings are located in California, unless noted otherwise.
Where possible, the provenance, or original organization, of the papers has been preserved. However, in order to simplify
access to the collection for researchers, some materials in specific formats and topics were reorganized and refoldered to
more accurately reflect their contents.
There are two series in the Walter T. Steilberg Collection:
1. Personal Papers, including obituaries and Steilberg's photographs of buildings in California; and
2. Professional Papers, including Steilberg's written and visual documentation of work for Julia Morgan.
The collection is housed in one box. Series 2 Professional Papers contains the most significant and unique portions of the
collection, including both Steilberg's published and unpublished recollections of working in Julia Morgan's practice, as well
as Steilberg's vintage photographs from the 1920s of various Morgan commissions soon after their completion.