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Monday, April 25, 2011

Guest Ciji Ware: The 1906 Earthquake and Women Architects

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Ciji Ware and her knock-your-socks-off historical novel about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, A Race to Splendor. Here she tells us about the earthquake and firestorm…and how women come to be among the architects that rebuilt the city.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win the copy of A Race to Splendor which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Ciji will select the winner. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winner within a week of the selection, I will award the book to an alternate. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

I haven't been able to contact Ciji, so I invoked executive privilege and awarded the book. The winner is Jannine Gallant!

Welcome, Ciji!

Given the recent, horrific quakes in Japan and Haiti—not to mention the Tsunami in Indonesia, Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico, and the BP Oil spill— San Francisco’s 1906 7.7 (some say 8.2) shaker and the terrible fire that followed in its wake are still considered one of the worst natural disasters to strike a populated area. The 1906 cataclysm left 480 city blocks in cinders; destroyed dozens of churches and schools, and left some 250,000 of 400,000 San Franciscans homeless for up to two-and-a-half years.

The city’s best hotels: the Palace, the St. Francis, and the fabled Fairmont atop Nob Hill were all deeply scarred from events that took place before dawn on the morning of April 18th 105 years ago this spring –and there soon developed a competition to see if they could all be rehabilitated and reopened by the first anniversary, April 18, 1907. In the case of the Fairmont, the hostelry was only a few months from its Grand Opening when the quake struck and reportedly, the lobby’s grand-scale furniture was still in crates when fire of more than 2000 degrees swept through.

Enter Julia Morgan, a “local girl” who was the only female in her class in 1894 at UC Berkeley to graduate from the engineering department, and the only woman in the world up to that time (and for many years afterward) to be accepted to study architecture at the famed L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. After obtaining her Certificate in Architecture there, she returned to San Francisco barely four years before the quake hit and by 1904, had struck out on her own, establishing a small practice on Montgomery Street in the heart of what is now the financial district.

Fortunately, none of her staff were killed or suffered injury in the disaster, but her office was destroyed. She immediately moved her firm into the carriage barn at her home in Oakland and proceeded to gain commissions that had been slow in coming until the quake hit. Dealing in an essentially Man’s World in a field almost exclusively male, Morgan competed for commissions to rebuild the city’s famous hotels—but failed.

That is, until the famed New York architect Stanford White—celebrated for his many buildings, was unable to undertake the renovation of the Fairmont. It was at that point that Julia Morgan received the assignment to restore the hotel to exactly what it looked like before the earthquake struck.

The Grand Lady of Nob Hill has undergone several renovations in the last 105 years, but in the Year 2000, she was restored to nearly the same look that Julia Morgan had reinstated by 1907, created by the original architects, the brothers James and Merritt Reid. In her own right, Morgan built some 700 commercial and residential structures in the Bay Area, alone, and is probably best known as the architect and builder of the exotic “Hearst Castle” overlooking the Pacific Ocean in central California.

When I first moved to San Francisco, I lived in an apartment building designed and built by Julia Morgan just a few blocks from the Fairmont on Taylor and Jackson streets. I soon became totally obsessed to learn how a woman in that era had accomplished such a marvelous feat as to restore the terribly damaged 600-room hotel. I’ve chosen to tell the story through the eyes of Amelia Hunter Bradshaw, a fictional, composite figure based on the lives of people who knew and worked with Julia Morgan. I’ve cast Morgan as an important, but secondary character in this work of fiction that chronicles the daring, the rampant corruption, and the splendor of some of the people who fought for the city to rise, literally, from the ashes.

I hope you and your readers will be as swept away by this story as I was, and please visit to learn about A Race to Splendor and my other historical novels.

A Race to Splendor by Ciji Ware

Inspired by female architect Julia Morgan, this is the riveting tale of a race against time to rebuild two luxury hotels after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed 400 city blocks and left 250,000 homeless.

Morgan's fictional protegee Amelia Bradshaw and client J.D. Thayer will sacrifice anything to see the city they love rise from the ashes; in the process, they can't help but lose their hearts.

Praise for Ciji Ware:

"Ciji Ware is a master storyteller."
Libby's Library News

"A great historical fiction author...Ciji Ware certainly knows how to touch hearts."
Reading Extravaganza


Linda Banche said...

I loved your book--it has everything, good, evil, romance, physical danger, an unconventional heroine (my favorite) and a hero who's not what he appears. A RACE TO SPLENDOR would make a great movie, especially since San Francisco is the background.

catslady said...

I really enjoy fiction based on fact. And I enjoy reading about strong women. Sounds like a wonderful combination. I've read some about the San Francisco fire but nothing about Julia Morgan. I've heard good things about this book and wish you every sucess.

Sue Palmer Fineman said...

I love novels set in this time period, and this sounds like a fascinating book.

aarbaugh said...

Oh, that sounds exciting. I've heard a bit about the earthquake. I have a heavy interest in writing, history, and how we can weave true historical events into fictional works. My interests also lie in "forgotten" women's history. Cross my fingers & hope to win.

Jannine Gallant said...

This sounds like a wonderful book. As a Northern California native, the setting is dear to my heart. Best of luck with sales.

Beth Caudill said...

I love San Francisco. My husband and I honeymooned there.

The History Channel has a great recap of the Earthquake events and aftermath. Although, I don't remember Julia Morgan being mentioned.

Sounds like a great book.

Jason and Emily said...

This sounds like a GREAT read. I'm with others who like an unconventional heroine, and this story sounds very intriguing. Thanks for the interview and for the giveaway!
Sign me up!

Maureen said...

What an interesting post. I always enjoy reading about women who broke into all male professions.

Toni Noel said...

This is fascinating. I had no idea women had the opportunity to become architects back then.

Toni Noel

desitheblonde said...

the hotel i head about and i n ow some place being redone we had a house in ohio called the mansion beside being haunted and have a lot of story to tell it is redone again i love the book cover look great and would love to read it and blog on it

Yo Yoshida said...

I currently live at Taylor and Jackson and we need your help. We are trying to find out where you got the information that our building is a Julia Morgan Building for the historical society.
Please any help would be much appreciated!
Building is being fixed up as we speak.