The Ennis House

En 20 Sky

I’d read about Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House for years, but I’d never actually been to see it.  So this last weekend I decided I was going to pay a visit.

The gate at the driveway.

The gate at the driveway.

It’s an amazing structure, built using the “textile block” process that Wright explored during his time in the LA area.  Unfortunately, as beautiful as the house is, it started falling apart even before it was finished.  Wright’s idea of mixing granite from the site into the concrete used for the blocks probably sounded like a good idea at the time.  In practice, though, it made the blocks unstable.  Millions have been spent restoring the Ennis House over the years.  For a while, it was owned by a foundation that tried to rehabilitate it, but the process proved too costly and they ended up putting the house on the market.

The front of the house.

The front of the house.

Selling Wright’s LA area houses isn’t as easy as it might seem.  The Ennis House was on the market for years, and the price had to be lowered significantly before a buyer was found.  As far as I can tell, La Miniatura in Pasadena is still on the market.  The problem seems to be that beyond the purchase price, buyers know that they’ll have to spend a fortune on upkeep.  And because the houses are on the National Register of Historic Places, the standards for restoration are very strict.  If you need to patch a wall, you can’t just slap on some spackle.

The back of the house.

The back of the house.

But the Ennis House is lovely, and absolutely one of a kind.  Wright was influenced by Mayan architecture, and the house seems at once both ancient and modern.  To see what it looks like inside, visit the web site by clicking the link below.

The Ennis House

And if you’re not familiar with Wright’s work, you might want to visit the Wikipedia page devoted to him.  Aside from the quality of the work he did himself, he had a huge influence on American architecture.

Frank Lloyd Wright at Wikipedia

Wright thought he was creating a practical approach to constructing homes with his textile block system.  In reality, it turned out to be terribly inefficient and outrageously expensive.  But the fact that people have been willing to invest the time and money to maintain them over several decades is an indication of how precious these homes are.  Their value goes way beyond anything you can measure in dollars.

Another shot of the back of the house.

Another shot of the back of the house.

A Day in the Park

Late afternoon in Barnsdall Park.

Late afternoon in Barnsdall Park.

Years ago I used to live on Edgemont between Hollywood and Sunset. One of the great things about the neighborhood was that Barnsdall Park was right across the street. I used to go there fairly often, but then I moved away, and Barnsdall kind of fell off my radar. I’ve been meaning to go back for years, and this last weekend I finally made the trip.

A cyclist resting at the base of the hill.

A cyclist resting at the base of the hill.

There are lots of parks in urban areas, but somehow Barnsdall seems different. I think this is mostly because it sits on top of a hill. As you climb the stairs, the sounds of the city, the traffic, the sirens, the helicopters, all seem to fade into the background. Then you get to the top and there are these amazing panoramic views of Los Angeles.

The Griffith Observatory is perched on the hills opposite Barnsdall Park.

The Griffith Observatory is perched on the hills opposite Barnsdall Park.

Another reason the park is special is that it’s home to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House. Completed in nineteen twenty three, this was Wright’s first project in Los Angeles. I’ve only been inside once, but the memory has stayed with me. The house is beautiful and unique. Unfortunately, it’s closed right now for restoration.

The entrance to Hollyhock House.

The entrance to Hollyhock House.

A view of Hollyhock House.

The west end of Hollyhock House.

Hollyhock House's central courtyard

Hollyhock House’s central courtyard.

We have the park thanks to the generosity of Aline Barnsdall, who donated it to the city back in the twenties. Originally from Pennsylvania, Barnsdall wanted to create a theatrical community on what was then known as Olive Hill. She commissioned Wright to design Hollyhock House, as well as several other structures, but the two parted ways and the complete plan was never realized.

The Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park.

The Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park.

Barnsdall Park is also home to the Municipal Art Gallery and the Junior Arts Center. For more information on the programs offered, follow the link below.

Barnsdall Art Park

And if you’d like more information on Hollyhock House, click here

Hollyhock House

People on the grass at the western edge of the park.

People on the grass at the western edge of the park.