Viewing the Hollyhock House at Night was a rare opportunity, and I for one wasn’t going to miss it.
On February 13th, 2015, after a four year restoration at a cost of $4.5 million, Frank Lloyd Wrights iconic home in Barnsdall Park reopened to the public. In the spirit of giving back to the community, the nominal entry fee of $7 was waived, and the home was open to the public complimentary for a full 24-hour period. And best of all, photos were allowed! This is what kept running through my mind as I stood in line… for three, yes three very long hours. Otherwise I would have gladly come back at another time. Yes, I have photos from an earlier visit to the home in 2005, but it’s never open during the night. Wisely, there was a Girl Scout with her wagon of cookies working the extensive lines wrapping around the estate. I think her box of Do-si-dos saved my life, or the lives of those around me… low blood sugar is never my friend.
Built in 1921 for Bohemian oil heiress Aline Barnsdall, this 11-acre site known as Barnsdall Park, sits on a hill overlooking Hollywood with spectacular city views. The first of several Mayan concrete block structures created by Wright in Los Angeles, this home was inspired by Ms. Barnsdall’s love of hollyhock flowers. I’ll admit I didn’t know what a hollyhock flower actually looked like until now, so here it is.
You can see how the vertical spine of the flower inspired Wright’s concrete panel below, which is seen throughout the home. It appears that the lush color of the flower also influenced the color palette for both the Library and the Dining Room. And take a closer look at the chairs in the dining room. You’ll see that geometrized floral pattern appearing there as well.
The exterior Colonnade below is another version of the Hollyhock panel stretched out, offering structural support for the roof. This is such a perfect example of utilizing a design motif in multiple ways, thus creating the visual rhythm for the space. All it takes in money, and lots of it. Even an oil heiress can get fed up with cost overruns and fire her architect, which is exactly what happened here. It’s hard to believe Ms. Barnsdall never actually lived in the home.
According to curator Jeffrey Herr, his devoted team spent countless hours returning the Hollyhock House back to its 1920’s glory, from the wall moldings to the bas-reliefs to the paint color. It seems the original forest green walls have chemicals banned by California, so they engineered a chemical formula that exactly resembled it… but safer of course. And for the golden glisten on top, they crafted a formula of mica, suspended in alcohol. According to Los Angeles Magazine, Herr hopes that viewers will walk in and go, This is great, what did they do? For him, that’s the sign of a good restoration. From my point of view, the home was impeccable. As everyone said as they left the home, it was worth the wait. And it was.
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