A Frank Lloyd Wright Gem in Los Angeles Reopens to the Public

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By Erika Heet / Published by Dwell
This weekend, Angelenos will have a rare chance to attend tours—at night!—at the famed architect’s iconic Hollyhock House.

The curator of the Hollyhock House, Jeffrey Herr, lets Dwell in on the details of the recent restoration.

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Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), the Department of Recreation and Parks, Project Restore, Public Works — Bureau of Engineering, the Department of General Services, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation announce February 13, 2015, as the official reopening of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famed Hollyhock House, an iconic architectural masterpiece in the heart of the vibrant, artistic, cultural, and recreational Barnsdall Art Park.

Jeffrey Herr: The restoration was handled by three project managers: Kevin Jew of Project Restore wrote the grant and served as on-site consultant; Hsiao-Ling Ting, City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering, Architecture Division was the project architect; and Jeffrey Herr, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Curator of Hollyhock House, provided research and historic preservation consulting. The Bureau of Engineering handled the design in collaboration with specialist contractors.

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The view of the interior courtyard. To mark the occasion of the reopening, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell will lead an Official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony with the project’s collaborators at 4:00 p.m. at the Hollyhock House on February 13, 2015. Following this, for one night only, the City of Los Angeles and the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation will open Hollyhock House for self-guided tours for 24 hours, commencing at 4:00 p.m. on February 13 until 4:00 p.m. on February 14, 2015. Visitors are invited to enjoy the event and share with others via social media with the #WrightAtNight hashtag.

The restoration focused on correcting physical deficiencies: leaking roofs, clogged drains, structural cracks, and aesthetics. Identifying the problems was easy. Fixing them required ingenuity and input from various experts. For instance, architect Hsiao-Ling Ting insisted that the drain system have a backup and that the backup drain have its own failsafe mechanism. Once work was executed [on the] replacement roofs, Kevin Jew spent weekends testing, locating problems, and having them fixed the following Monday. Attention to detail was the key to success. That detail extended to the interiors. To complete the necessary work required us to disturb interior surfaces. That was a blessing in disguise, because it gave us the opportunity to do some forensic investigation and we were quite surprised to find trace evidence of 1921 surfaces—enough so that our materials conservator was able to provide formulas to re-create plaster textures and color for the surfaces. We even found an example of the exterior stucco that had survived intact from 1921 and that allowed us to recoat the house, changing its appearance completely.

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Reopening Friday, February 13th, 2015: For one night only, the City of Los Angeles and the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation will open Hollyhock House for self-guided tours for 24 hours, starting at 4:00 pm on February 13th. The admission fee will be waived for the first night through 11am on February 14, 2015.

Much of our focus was on the fenestration and decorative wood trims. Many of these had been removed in the 1940s and the evidence existed only in black-and-white photographs. With the help of a skilled craftsman, some high-res images, negatives unearthed at the University of Riverside, and a lot more detective work, we now have doors, windows, and moulding details that change the look and feeling of the interiors dramatically.

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The living room's original block fireplace. Hollyhock House is now on the tentative list of the first modern architecture nominations from the United States to the United Nation’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List. “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House is a crown jewel of Los Angeles architecture," Mayor Garcetti says.

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The living room glows in the afternoon light. Philanthropist, art collector, and Pennsylvania oil heiress Aline Barnsdall deeded her 36 acres of land, on which Hollyhock house sits (now known as Barnsdall Park) as well as its Frank Lloyd Wright–designed structures as a permanent home for the appreciation of art and architecture to the City of Los Angeles in 1927.

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Hollyhock House is the first house of Wright’s second period and his first residence in Southern California. Named for Barnsdall’s favorite flower, the Hollyhock is incorporated throughout the design scheme of the residence.

The recently completed restoration is an important historical revelation for first-time visitors and regulars alike. Visitors will be able to see and experience the house in much of its original splendor. Floors, windows, doors, decorative molding, and long-forgotten paint colors have been re-created with utmost attention to detail and original intent. The latest phase of renovation took place from 2008 though 2014, with a total of $4,359,000 spent on conservation efforts. Hollyhock House is operated by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA).

After it reopens on February 13, 2015, Hollyhock House will feature self-guided “Walk Wright In” tours on Thursdays through Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for a fee of $7 for adults, $3 for students and seniors with identification, and $3 for children under 12 when accompanied by a paying adult. Special arrangements may be made for docent-led tours, group tours, guided tours, and other engagements by calling 323.913.4031. Click here for more information on the tours.