Aline Barnsdall was heiress to a vast oil fortune, a close friend of Emma Goldman, a subject of FBI surveillance, a bohemian, an actress and one of the great patrons of architecture.
Aline Barnsdall also had a vision.
In the midst of an olive tree grove with clear vistas to the ocean, she would build a shining theater on a hill.
To help her realize her dream, Barnsdall enlisted Frank Lloyd Wright to develop Olive Hill in 1919. Although Wright’s reputation was already firmly established, he had left the US for Tokyo as his career began to wane stateside. He returned to the US to begin work on Hollyhock and create his new signature style known as Mayan block.
The 36 acre parcel, now known as Barnsdall Art Park, was to be a grand complex for the performing arts including a school and a number of stages. Throughout the project, Barnsdall and Wright fought bitterly. Wright seemed to have little patience for the needs of a theater and Barnsdall had little interest in the residence.
With Wright losing interest and distracted by his scandalous personal life, Barnsdall brought in others to help finish the project.
Richard Neutra and Rudolf Schindler were just beginning their careers when they received the invitation. It was through their association with Hollyhock that both Neutra and Schindler launched their careers. Later, they would go on to create landmarks such as Lovell House and Kings Road House. In fact, much of modernist LA residential architecture flows directly from the collaboration on Hollyhock.
When it was finished, Barnsdall disavowed the grand monument. She never lived in the Hollyhock House, preferring one of the smaller residences on the grounds. A few years later, she donated the entire complex to the City of Los Angeles as an art center which continues to operate today.
Hollyhock House was recently opened to the public following years of renovation to restore earthquake damage and neglect.
Follow Sandi as she gives you an inside look at the house that started it all.
Most people probably only go to Barnsdall Art Park for their summer winetasting events on Friday nights…
…but I’ve found myself gravitating there on hot summer afternoons, when I’m looking for some peace and quiet, and a place to sit, far removed from the Hollywood traffic below, yet with a view of the Hollywood Sign.
It’s a good place to bring out-of-town visitors and an even better place to meet up with local friends when you just want to see each other, and talk, and hang out, and don’t require coffee or food or booze to do so.
Besides the seasonal winetasting events, and the occasional farmer’s market, there’s also a number of gallery events and studio workshops in the park…
…as well as Frank Lloyd Wright’s first LA project (and second in California), the Hollyhock House.
It’s a leaky thing (typical of Frank Lloyd Wright), and just reopened from a six year restoration process that closed the historic home to the public.
It reopened with a flourish on February 13 for a 24 hour celebration that left overnight visitors waiting in line for up to three hours, even at 3 a.m.
It is now open for “Walk Wright In” tours Thursdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., though photography is no longer allowed inside.
Thanks to its somewhat remote and unpatrolled location, it has fallen victim to vandalism, and it has provided a safe haven for homeless encampments so this is the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation’s way of protecting the landmark while still making it accessible.
When you can get close to it, if you use your imagination…
…you can see the design inspiration for the house:
…the hollyhock, the favorite flower of Aline Barnsdall, the oil heiress for whom the house was built.
It is, of course, a more geometric representation of the flower…
…and the geometry so typical of Wright’s architecture and interior design is evident inside the house as well.
From the leaded art glass…
…to the furniture…
…the Hollyhock House is a preserved showcase of Frank Lloyd Wright’s style…
…if you can get inside of it.
These photos were taken in 2011, when the Hollyhock House was still open for public tours (during those winetasting events)…
…photography was allowed
…and many of the interior elements were original and in good condition.
Whether or not you go inside the Hollyhock House, a visit to Barnsdall Park, and the view of the house from afar, atop what was once known as Olive Hill is as far removed from LA as you can be, while smack dab in the middle of Hollywood. And it is a delight.
Sometimes you need to get away, without going very far.
Barnsdall Art Park sponsors many events and exhibitions including wine tasting and children’s art events.
For more information, go to Barnsdall Art Park.