Architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed a number of famous Los Angeles homes. The first was Hollyhock House, built between 1919 and 1921 for oiler Aline Barnsdall on her 36-acre property in Olive Hill above Hollywood Boulevard on the west side of Vermont Avenue. She hired Wright to build a Mayan-inspired theater, movie theater, commercial shops, and artist residences as part of a cultural art complex she featured. Barnsdall donated the property to the City of Los Angeles in 1927, allegedly because they were concerned about the cost of maintenance and additional planned construction.
Major city administrators of Hollyhock House included the late Ridgewood-Wilton, Virginia leader “Ginny” Kazor, as reported in the Larchmont Chronicle in August 2019 after the house was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the only one in Los Angeles). . Kazor, who worked for the Los Angeles Department of Culture, began overseeing Hollyhock House in 1978. For a long time she was involved nationwide in preserving the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, among other things as a founding member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Preservation. She died in September 2021.
The curator of Hollyhock House is now Abbey Chamberlain Brach. Brach was one of the speakers at a December 15 event organized by 13th Ward Councilman Mitch O’Farrell to mark the completion of the first phase of restoration of a second Wright building on the property, Residence A to celebrate, which was originally completed in 1921. Brach said of these Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, âThese Grade II listed structures represent not only what has been built on Olive Hill, but also the great plans Aline Barnsdall and her architect designed for an art community here …
âWhen Ms. Barnsdall donated the park to the City of Los Angeles in 1927, she said, ‘I thought of my father, of the happiness of children and young people with Olive Hill as a place to work and play, as a backdrop for their dreams and memories, and my reluctance to see a building and a landscape of great beauty destroyed, and now my triumphant joy to see them saved. ‘ Here she spoke of the Park and Hollyhock House, but soon afterwards she gave (and saved) Residence A.
âNow we all know that rescuing these structures takes a village and doesn’t just happen in one case. It’s work in progress. Saving requires foresight and dedication in order to understand the necessary restoration and conservation work. This can be seen in the Hollyhock House, the first and only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Los Angeles, which was restored by this project team in 2014 (before my arrival). It happened here too, work began in 2017; It contains heavy structural steel and concrete reinforcements along with tiny color swatches and revealing design details that were eventually revealed.
âAnd now, exactly 100 years after Wright completed Residence A, the City of Los Angeles has completed the Phase 1 restoration of this remarkable guest house. When the exterior panels are completed, the vision is clear (and becomes clearer). We can now tell new stories and dig deeper into the site’s rich history. Barnsdall Park isn’t just Hollyhock House; it is an art complex (as Wright and Barnsdall envisioned and as it is today).
âResidence A speaks more than the main house of Wright’s many vacant site designs here – particularly the theater director’s residence and the row houses. We can now share this story, this vision better, âBrach concluded.
Phase 1 of Residence A’s restoration project began in 2017 and cost more than $ 5 million from a variety of sources including city dollars and funds from the former Community Redevelopment Agency and the National Park Service. As part of phase 1, the exterior cladding was meticulously rebuilt, structural and seismic work was completed and the building systems improved. The planned Phase 2 will provide critical interior details, furniture, finishes, and infrastructure repairs, as well as exterior landscaping and ADA-compliant hardscaping required to reopen the site to the public.
As the event’s master of ceremonies, Councilor O’Farrell said, âIt was amazing to see Residence A literally come back to life and shine over Barnsdall Art Park, one of the jewels in the city’s park system. After completing phase 1, move on to phase 2 so that we can not only celebrate the beauty and grandeur of this building, but enable all Angelenos to fully access, enjoy and learn from this priceless piece of history. “
Among those introduced by the councilor (alongside Brach) were representatives from the city’s engineering firm (lead architect and project manager for the restoration) and the Department of General Services (which acted as general contractor). The non-profit Project Restore served as the grant administrator and restoration manager.