Sac State’s famous mansion on sale due to budget cuts

Brett Johnson

The historic Julia Morgan House, formerly known as the Goethe Mansion, has belonged to Sacramento State since the 1960s, but it is being sold due to budgetary problems.

The Julia Morgan House, located at 3731 T St., went on the market during the first week of April. The 7,200-square-foot mansion, which sits on one acre of land, is now valued at $1,995,000.

Built in the early 1920s, the mansion was designed by one of America’s first female architects, Julia Morgan. Morgan was an acclaimed architect, best known for her construction of the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. The Julia Morgan House is the only residential design of hers in Sacramento.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for potential buyers,” said Polly Sanders, real estate agent. “This property has never been on the market before. It’s going to end up with someone who has a special interest in history, beauty and architecture.”

In 1918, American eugenicist Charles Goethe hired Morgan to construct the residence for him and his wife. After Goethe’s death in 1966, he bequeathed the house and $650,000 to University Enterprises Inc., the nonprofit auxiliary of Sac State. 

Goethe was a controversial figure because of his public support of the German Nazi Party’s mass-sterilization program that meant to selectively breed the Aryan race. In an effort to distance itself from the racist viewpoints of Goethe, Sac State in 2007 renamed the Goethe Mansion to the Julia Morgan House.

“Even though Goethe had some despicable beliefs,” said Kevin Wehr, sociology professor and president of Sac State‘s chapter of the California Faculty Association, “I can’t imagine that he would have been pleased with the university’s decision to sell the estate. Usually when you donate something, you want to see it put to good use.” 

The mansion was at one time used for off-campus events for students and faculty, and then rented out for a usage fee for weddings and receptions. 

While the Julia Morgan House was in use, UEI was spending $244,000 on the house every year for its operation. Even when the house was no longer being used, UEI had to pay for routine landscaping and housekeeping.

Not having to pay for the general maintenance costs would save the university $40,000 annually.

“The University Enterprises Inc. board has determined it is best to relieve the company of the ongoing maintenance and upkeep costs of the Julia Morgan House,” said Kimberly Nava, director of news services.

Wehr said the poorly timed decision to sell the estate is further evidence of incompetence in Sac State’s administration.

Nava said the decision to put the Julia Morgan House on the market is something that has been deliberation since January, and it was an option that had been examined for even longer.

The house is listed by Coldwell Banker’s Polly Sanders at just under $2 million. Nava said once a determination is made on the estate’s final price, there will be “further discussions of what should come of the net proceeds.”