Methodist Chinese Mission School

Methodist Chinese Mission School (Gum Moon Residence Hall), 940 Washington Street, San Francisco, California

Designed by Julia Morgan in 1907


Julia Morgan, an Oakland native, graduated from the College of Civil Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. She studied drawing with architect Bernard Maybeck, who encouraged her after graduation in 1894 to attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1901, she became the first women to graduate from there in architecture.


Returning to the Bay Area, she worked for John Galen Howard, the UC Berkeley campus architect, and became the first woman in California to earn her architectural license, opening her San Francisco office in 1905. It was the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco that launched Morgan’s career. With her background in Civil Engineering she had used reinforced concrete so many of her buildings survived the disaster while the rest of the city crumbled and burned. Morgan is well known for Hearst Castle and her buildings at Asilomar State Park,  residences, but she also designed other residences, as well as numerous institutional buildings such as churches, schools, hospitals, university buildings, swimming pools and a series of YWCA buildings. In 2014, more than 50 years after her death, Morgan was awarded the AIA Gold Medal for Architecture, the first woman to receive the prestigious honor.


Julia Morgan’s Methodist Chinese Mission School, now know as the Gum Moon Residence Hall, has over it’s lifetime, consistently provided temporary housing and social services to women and children in need. It is set on a narrow portion of Washington Street between Powell and Stockton in the center of Chinatown. Designed between 1907 and 1910 and built of brick in 1911, it has been restored in recent years and is clearly a well-kept structure. It replaced the earthquake-destroyed original Methodist Mission Hall. The painted green window frames and cornices, the Peony keystone in the doorway arch, and the simple ironwork railings all are remarkably true to the original design.


Due to heavy construction on San Francisco’s Central Subway project, the stretch of Washington Street just above Stockton is closed off, and the Gum Moon Residence Hall sits at the end of the temporary dead-end. The resulting lack of traffic, parked cars, and pedestrians rendered this corner of the Chinatown neighborhood strangely quiet, and allowed me to photograph at leisure. I was even able to climb on top of some parked construction equipment for a higher viewpoint than normal in the view of the South and West sides of the building.

Methodist Chinese Mission School