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Wright’s ‘Hollyhock House’ Blooms Anew


By Jill M. Speegle

More items for Color + Design

The Hollyhock House—Frank Lloyd Wright’s first venture into architecture in Los Angeles—is blossoming once again following a $4.3 million, seven-year restoration program.

Originally built between 1919 and 1921 for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall, the home was designed in a lyrical and poetic style of architecture referred to as “California Romanza,” or “freedom to make one’s own form.”

Interior Courtyard
Photos: Joshua White / JWPictures.com

The City of Los Angeles just completed a $4.3 million restoration to one of Frank Lloyd Wright's West Coast designs, the Hollyhock House, in Barnsdall Art Park.

Beginning Feb. 13, the public will have a chance to view the 5,000-square-foot abode in its “original splendor,” according to a joint announcement by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation.

Detailed Restoration

The landmark’s grand reopening follows a painstaking restoration effort led by curator Jeffrey Herr, Project Restore, Griswold Conservation Associates, as well as the city’s departments of Engineering and Cultural Affairs.

“Floors, doors, decorative molding, and long-forgotten paint colors have been recreated with utmost attention to detail,” officials said.

Interestingly, The Architect’s Newspaper Blog reports that the house’s plaster finishes were brought back from their “muddy” form to an original glistening gold state by a formula consisting of micah suspended in alcohol.

Hollyhock House

The hollyhock, the client's favorite flower, was worked into the design scheme.

The team also performed crack repairs and waterproofing during the project.

‘Crown Jewel’

“Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House is a crown jewel of Los Angeles architecture,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.

“Restoring this landmark to its original glory is a great example of how the city can preserve its unique history while providing Angelenos access to art in everyday places.”

So…here’s a Date Night suggestion for architecture buffs who may be in the area: Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4 p.m. Feb. 13 in Barnsdall Art Park, the home will be open for self-guided tours throughout the evening and into Valentine’s Day.

While you are walking the grounds with your sweetie, be sure to recount some of the site’s storied past. I’ve included a few tidbits below.

Hollywood’s Hollyhock

The history of the home is quite worthy of its Hollywood address.

It begins with Barnsdall, a bohemian, single mother and Pennsylvania oil heiress with dreams of producing theater in her own backyard.  


The massive living area included furniture pieces designed by Wright, as well as a massive fireplace with a moat.

She was the “ultimate iconoclast, whose support of radical causes kept her under the watchful eye of the FBI for 24 years,” writes historian Cheryl Lee Johnson.

Purchasing a 36-acre site in Hollywood known as Olive Hill in 1919, she commissioned Wright to build a performance space where she could produce avant-garde theater.

Soon, the expansive theater complex morphed to include a private residence.

Construction began in 1919 and ended three years later when Barnsdall fired Wright, citing costs as the primary reason for the termination.

However, during construction, the designer was said to have been distracted by another project—the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan.

The cost of Barnsdall’s beloved project had ballooned from an estimated $30,000 to near $200,000, according to Johnson. What’s worse? She was said to have hated it.

The Hollyhock House was Wright’s first residence in Southern California. It featured concrete walls and doors, art glass windows, bas-reliefs, and an extravagant fireplace complete with a moat. 

Though named for Barnsdall’s favorite flower, she despised the home and donated it to the city in 1927.

From Home to Landmark

Hollyhock was then used as the headquarters for the California Art Club for 15 years. It was restored in 1974-76 to serve as a public museum.

It was among the first structures to be designated as a historic-cultural monument by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission in 1963. In 2007, the home was chosen as a National Historic Landmark.

The 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, along with several other Wright buildings.


Jill M. Speegle

Jill Speegle is the Editor of Durability + Design News. She earned her B.A. in journalism and English as well as her J.D. from the University of Arkansas. In Sketches, Jill shares her thoughts on a number of topics that may be of interest to the D+D community, including architecture, interior design, green building, historic restoration, and whatever else catches her radar.



Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Architects; Architectural history; Architecture; Building design; Color; Design; Frank Lloyd Wright; Historic Preservation

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