June 8 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of iconic American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. As a leader of the Prairie School, he's most frequently associated with the Midwest — where he was born and where the bulk of his Prairie-style residences are located — but he created a number of masterpieces in L.A. over the course of his career, particularly in the Mayan Revivalist style. (And that's not to mention that his son Lloyd Wright and grandson Eric Lloyd Wright both lived and worked as architects in L.A.; the latter, now 87, still does.) As institutions across the country prepare to celebrate the architect's birthday — from an archival exhibition at MoMA in Manhattan to a series of programs being put on by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust in Chicago — here in L.A., a driving tour of FLW's work could be in order. (Note: Some of these are private residences, so don't be annoying.)
Aline Barnsdall was an oil heiress, a artsy-radical-feminist type and, perhaps most important, the person who brought Frank Lloyd Wright out to California. (She also lured important West Coast Modernists Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra out to California, which isn't even mentioned most places.) Barnsdall commissioned Wright to design the Hollyhock House — named for her favorite flower — as well as several other structures atop Olive Hill. The house, whose style Wright referred to as California Romanza, was built between 1919 and 1921 and then donated to the city by Barnsdall in 1927, along with the rest of Olive Hill. After years of renovations that returned the space to its early-century glory, the Hollyhock House reopened to the public in 2015, replete with era-appropriate furnishings and flourishes, and the surrounding park has taken shape to become the sort of art space Barnsdall might have envisioned. (If you have a few minutes, I highly recommend reading this history of Aline Barnsdall from Barnsdall Park's website.)
4800 Hollywood Blvd., East Hollywood.
Anderton Court Shops
Wright had a penchant for putting spires on secular buildings, and Anderton Court in Beverly Hills is one such example. It was built in the early '50s — some sources say '52, while the California Office of Historical Preservation says '54. The courtyard also features the inverted V that was typical of his later work (Wright died in 1959, just a few years after the shopping complex's construction).
332 Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills.
A masterpiece of Wright's Mayan Revival style, the Ennis house was completed in 1924 for men's clothing retailer Charles Ennis and his wife, Mabel. According the landmark's website, the house was constructed from upward of 27,000 concrete blocks made from granite mined from the site and, including the chauffeur's quarters, spans 6,200 square feet. In 2011, it was purchased by Ron Burkle of the investment firm Yucaipa Companies for around $4.5 million, which actually sounds like sort of a bargain. Oh, and of course it was Rick Deckard's house in Blade Runner.
2607 Glendower Ave., Los Feliz.
Nestled in the Hollywood Hills, the Freeman House is, along with the Ennis House, the Storer House and the Millard House, one of four textile block homes Wright constructed in L.A.; Wright's son Lloyd was the construction manager. The house was donated to the USC School of Architecture in 1984, and was rendered uninhabitable by the '94 Northridge earthquake. Work began on a restoration in 2000, but work stalled when the school's dean, Robert Timme, passed away. Updates on the restoration have been few and far between since 2008, when Curbed wondered, “What the hell is taking so long?” The house has basically become a study in how not to build a house in the Hollywood Hills.
1962 Glencoe Way, Hollywood Hills.
Apparently, Wright's modular houses fared better in Pasadena. But not initially. Commissioned by rare-book dealer Alice Millard, for whom Wright had previously designed a house in Highland Park, Illinois, the Millard House — along with Wright's other Mayan Revival homes — was panned by architecture critics upon its completion in 1923. (There's a 2005 New York Times article that details Wright's L.A. years and his obsession with “an untested and (supposedly) low-cost method of concrete-block construction. What kind of rich person, many wondered, would want to live in such a house?”) Also known as La Miniatura, the house last sold in May 2015 for $3.65 million; the current estimate is over $4.1 million. So, take that, early-century architecture critics.
645 Prospect Crescent, Pasadena.
Once owned by movie producer Joel Silver, the Storer House in the Hollywood Hills is yet another of Wright's textile block homes, built in 1923. If there's a common thread between the people who commissioned these modular Wright homes in the early '20s, it's that they were all … unique. John Storer, for instance, was a homeopathic doctor. Relatively small at 2,967 square feet, the home underwent a million-dollar renovation in 2000 before Silver sold the house in 2002. Designed in the shape of a T, the house apparently has “three bedrooms, a den, three bathrooms, staff wing and a spa.” According to Zillow, it last sold in 2015 for $6.8 million.
8161 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood Hills West.
The closest thing to a midcentury house Wright designed in L.A., the Sturges House in Brentwood was designed and built in 1939. L.A. Modern Auctions says the architect was at the “pinnacle of his genius” when he created the 1,200-square-foot, brick-and-wood residence. The project was overseen by John Lautner, who obviously became famous in his own right. Alas, when the home went up for auction in 2016, it failed to sell. The auction house released the following statement: “Presenting the Sturges Residence has been a career highlight and we are honored to have been selected to publicize this property on behalf of the Bridges/Larson Foundation. Since we announced the sale earlier this year, this extraordinary residence has received worldwide attention and over the last few weeks nearly a thousand people have viewed the property. We are excited that this process has generated so much exposure and awareness. LAMA remains dedicated to the search for an appropriate buyer that will respect the property and commit to restoring it, and we firmly believe the ideal buyer is out there and don't want to rush the process.”
449 N. Skyewiay Road, Brentwood.
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