Los Angeles conservationists have reason to celebrate this week as the historic Hollyhock House finally reopened after a two-year closure due to the pandemic. The cast concrete marvel, located at 4800 Hollywood Blvd. on the grounds of Barnsdall Art Park in East Hollywood, was Frank Lloyd Wright’s first commission in Los Angeles and is currently the only residence in the area created by the legendary architect that is accessible to the public.
The house and surrounding park were created by millionaire oil heiress Aline Barnsdall, who moved from Chicago to LA in 1915 hoping to establish a community arts complex with a theater, artists’ studios , actors’ dormitories, houses for guest directors, and private accommodation for herself. She chose a scenic hilltop lot for the project and quickly hired Wright to see it through.
Built from 1919 to 1921 with Frank’s son Lloyd Wright and then-aspiring architect Rudolph Schindler supervising much of the work, Hollyhock House became the centerpiece of the complex. Featuring a formidable facade accented by Mayan and Japanese influences, with beautiful friezes inspired by Aline’s favorite flower, the hollyhock, dotted throughout, senior Wright described the property’s unique style as “California Romanza” .
Although Barnsdall and Frank bumped into each other throughout construction, culminating in his eventual dismissal with only three of the complex’s planned structures completed, Hollyhock House is one of his finest works, a glorious fortress of concrete and wood located atop a grassy cliff overlooking virtually the entire city. As such, his influence is still felt today. The property’s official website calls the mansion’s “innovative plan and bold aesthetic” “enablers of the modern California architectural movement.”