Thieves Stole $200k Worth of Pieces From Frank Lloyd Wright’s Freeman House

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By Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
Four pieces of architectural history have reportedly been stolen from Frank Lloyd Wright's Freeman House in Los Angeles, while under the care of the University of Southern California.

The Los Angeles Police department has just released photos of four items of furniture stolen from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Samuel Freeman House. Likely worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, the pieces disappeared from a warehouse where the home’s furniture was being stored following an earthquake that damaged the property. According to the LAPD, the theft actually occurred sometime in 2012, but the crime has only recently been reported to them.

The interior of the Samuel Freeman house.

The interior of the Samuel Freeman house.

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These Frank Lloyd Wright floor lamps, 1924, were originally made for the Freeman House and have been reported stolen.

These Frank Lloyd Wright floor lamps, 1924, were originally made for the Freeman House and have been reported stolen.

A press release from the police department describes the four items of original furniture as two floor lamps designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and a folding chair and tea cart designed by Rudolph Schindler. Schindler was an Austrian-American architect who worked with Wright in L.A. in the 1920s. According to an investigative report published in the Los Angeles Times last month, USC campus police filed the report on Jan 22, 2019, over seven years after the theft occurred.

"The four items of furniture disappeared from a locked room within the storage facility sometime between July 5 to September 17, 2012," says the LAPD. "There were no signs of forced entry. The storage facility is managed by USC's School of Architecture."

The Samuel Freeman House is one of the four textile-block houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in California in the early ’20s. The other three are the Storer House, Ennis House, and Millard House.

The Samuel Freeman House is one of the four textile-block houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in California in the early ’20s. The other three are the Storer House, Ennis House, and Millard House.

A Rudolph Schindler tea cart from the 1930s, constructed of wood, glass, metal, and rubber, and measuring 32 1/4" x 28" x 17 1/2", is among the items taken from the Freeman collection.

A Rudolph Schindler tea cart from the 1930s, constructed of wood, glass, metal, and rubber, and measuring 32 1/4" x 28" x 17 1/2", is among the items taken from the Freeman collection.

Built in 1924, the home is situated on a steep slope in the Hollywood Hills, appearing from street view to be one level, but actually extending two more levels down. The Freemans were active in Los Angeles' artistic and political circles, running their home as an informal salon, adding to its cultural importance. 

The interior of the Samuel Freeman house.

The interior of the Samuel Freeman house.

The home was donated to the University of Southern California’s School of Architecture in 1984, but ten years later the Northridge earthquake caused significant damage to the 12,000 cast concrete blocks that make up the walls of the home. The damage left the building uninhabitable. At that point, the furniture was removed to a storage unit in south L.A.

This Rudolph Schindler wooden folding chair, 1930s, is also missing.

This Rudolph Schindler wooden folding chair, 1930s, is also missing.

Richard Wright, president of the Wright auction house in Chicago, told Curbed.com that the stolen pieces could be worth close to $200,000. The lamps he estimated as being worth $50,000 to $70,000 each, the chair $10,000 to $15,000, and the tea cart $20,000 to $30,000.

Anyone with information on the theft is asked to contact the Los Angeles Police Department at 213.486.6940 or visit www.lapdonline.org.

Related Reading: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Iconic Ennis House Is Listed For $23M 

Freeman House photos by Julius Shulman © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10)