One of the absolute pleasures of urban adventures is the friendliness of Angelenos. Time and time again, we have been greeted by residents of historic communities, regaled with stories and memories, treated with kindness and even generosity.
The l50th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright was no exception. We set out with an ambitious itinerary of five Wright designed houses: the Millard House, Barnsdall House, Ennis House, Storer House and Freeman House. Our plan was to drive by each one (with the exception of Barnsdall House) and stop for a few snapshots. It almost worked out.
Our first stop was the Barnsdall House, or Hollyhock House. Leaving our car in the city park below, we climbed three long flights of stairs to the beautifully restored house on the hill. For a small fee ($3), we were treated to gossipy stories about Frank’s relationship to his son Lloyd, his client Aline Barnsdall and the work involved in the restoration.
We drove by Millard House, or La Miniatura, got out of the car and started snapping. This was the first of four houses Wright built of textile blocks, concrete blocks cast with geometric designs. More driving on the crooked and narrow streets of the Hollywood Hills brought us to the Storer and Freeman houses.
It may be that the architect knew little about the ancient script but we still enjoyed the thematic consistency of Wright’s “Mayan Revival.”
Finally, we wound up the streets of East Hollywood again, searching for Ennis House which has been under repair for some time. To our surprise, there was no activity at the house, so we took the opportunity to photograph the exterior of the house without the distraction of construction activity. As we gathered for one last group photo in front of the beautiful gate, a cheerful head popped up asking, “Why don’t you take your picture here,” gesturing inside the locked gate!
We were invited in for a tour of the grounds by a kindly friend of the home owner (who happens to be Ron Burkle, the owner of the Stanley Cup winning Pittsburg Penguins.) He proudly showed off the pristine condition of the renovated house and grounds, noting that a crew from BBC was working to film the interior and exterior of the house, was returning that evening for some evening shots of the house aglow with lights. And then he invited us into the house for a very quick look.
“It’s because you were respectful,” he said “and didn’t try to climb over the chain or look over the walls.” It was an incredible privilege!