The city of Los Angeles has the rare privilege of ownership and stewardship of a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home, the Hollyhock House (4800 Hollywood Blvd.). It was a gift to the city in 1927 from oil heiress and theater producer Aline Barnsdall who commissioned Wright to design a hillside complex that was to include a personal residence, two guest houses, a theater, a reflecting lake and shops lining Hollywood Blvd.
Wright and Barnsdall had crossed paths in Chicago and she eventually brought the architect west. Due to a number of factors, including cost overruns, Wright’s attention to building the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan, and Barnsdall’s decision to disband her theater group, only the main house, garage and two guest residences were completed. (Residence B was demolished in 1954).
More than 128 years after his birth, Wright remains a pivotal influence on residential architecture. He was the first to devise the open plan living room and a forerunner to expanding the relationship of a house to the external natural world. At Hollyhock House (built between 1919-1921), his design intent was a half house, half garden and each interior space has a corresponding exterior space connected by loggias, colonnades and terraces. A stylized hollyhock flower motif is found throughout the property on decorative concrete planters, on columns, on the roof finials and within the stained glass windows. Reportedly the stalk flower was a favorite of Barnsdall.
Several restorations, including a recent $4.35 million effort that ended in 2015, fixed perennially leaking roofs, repaired seismic related damage and brought the design back as close as possible to Wright’s original. Remarkably, the dining room table and chairs—also sporting a hollyhock motif—remained with the house. The custom living room furniture, reputedly put in storage and lost, was remade in the late 1990s following Wright’s design. He called the house an example of California Romanza, an architectural style appropriate to the temperate Southern California region.
Two other Wright structures in California, the Marin County Civic Center and the Hanna House (owned by Stanford University) are also open to the public, although the Hanna House is currently closed to tours. Self-guided tours of the Hollyhock House are available Thurs.- Sun., 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For further information on the house and the surrounding Barnsdall Art Park go to barnsdall.org.
Wright’s masterworks come to market infrequently. The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Ennis House in Los Feliz–three bedrooms, four baths in 8,000 square feet — is currently on the market for $28 million after an extensive renovation and retrofit. (The home was immortalized in “Blade Runner.”) In Scottsdale, Arizona, the David Wright House is listed for $12.95 million. The 2,553 square foot concrete block home is rounded, a precursor to the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and comes with custom-made Wright furnishings.