Dedicated to Nobler Womanhood, Brick and Concrete Wall

Oakland, CA

Another day, another post with a Julia Morgan building.  The corner of this former YWCA building proclaims it is “dedicated to nobler womanhood”.

(click through on the image to view in 700px)

Designed in 1913 and influenced by Italian Renaissance Palazzo architecture, the building features an interior courtyard modeled after Donato Bramante’s church of Santa Maria della Pace in Rome.  The courtyard was covered by glass skylights to bring the outdoors in and originally featuring a fountain and decorated with wicker furniture to enhance the patio atmosphere.

The upper stories were and still are dormitories.  While in the past, the dorms housed minimum wage young women in transition from rural to city life and even minorities and immigrants, today they house high school students studying at the charter school that purchased the building in 2007.

I had stopped in while the front door was open and conducted my own self-guided tour on a Sunday. I was lucky enough to meet Esmeralda, an administrator at the school, as I was about to leave.  She was excited to provide a little background on the building, even retrieving the keys to show me the remains of the old swimming pool in the basement that has now been converted into a classroom.  And the view was from a small bathroom window one floor above the pool level.  She describes how tour buses usually stop in front of the school because of its historic nature and how she is always happy to invite people in for a quick visit.

This building is an epitome of changes in an urban environment.  The YWCA decided to build here because of the ascension of Oakland as growing  and thriving city.  Today, the immediate surrounding area is pockmarked with empty storefronts, short-term motels in former hotels, and restaurants that are not open on the weekends.  Directly across the street from the YWCA building, the brick on the side of the building features a painted advertisement for “Cord Agency – Insurance – Bonds”.  A search of the internet shows no reference of the company past the late 1950’s.  Progress in the form of the charter school, regression surrounding it.

Previous post from this shooting day:

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center weighted metering mode, 32mm, ISO 100, 1/125 sec, f/8

Dedicated to Nobler Womanhood, Brick and Concrete Wall.  Berkeley, California.  November 04, 2012. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.


3 thoughts on “Dedicated to Nobler Womanhood, Brick and Concrete Wall

    1. Thanks Tim. I’ve seen a few Bill Brandt photographs but mainly because of his association to Man Ray and comparisons to Edward Weston’s nudes. But I have seen very few of his high contrast landscapes and architectural photographs, so thanks for the nudge to explore those!


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