Historical Fun Facts About Los Angeles: Frank Lloyd Wright

Step 1 of moving to Los Angeles: learn stuff about Los Angeles.

Step 2: commit said “stuff” to memory so that you are equipped with “fun fact” information with which to force upon new friends in a way that sounds slightly cooler than, “so, I was listening to this podcast…”

So, here goes Step 1:

A couple of days ago I visited Hollyhock House, a house at the top of a hill that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Frank Lloyd Wright is obviously a bit of a legend, but besides, “he designed Falling Water,” I knew nothing of the man behind the “America’s Greatest Architect” moniker.

Turns out, Frank may have been one with nature, but he hadn’t exactly won over people.

He built Hollyhock House from 1919-1921, it was commissioned by Aline Barnsdall – who had initially wanted the space to be an artist colony. Frank, however, had other ideas – he was an artist and his vision of someone else’s property was not to be compromised. Instead of a colony, he built a house. He did however, incorporate her favourite flower, the hollyhock.

During construction Aline would write him long letters detailing her ideas and wondering why they weren’t being followed. Frank, who was also building a hotel in Tokyo, would write her long letters back basically saying he knew what he was doing. Due to the constraints of the day – each letter took one month to get to the other (Asia, it’s so far away).

So, why was he designing the house in the first place, and just why was he in Toyko? Well, the story I heard is that he needed to repair his reputation.

A couple of years earlier he had run off with Mamah Borthwick, the wife of a client. In 1911 he built her a house in Wisconsin called Taliesin. Tragedy struck in 1914 when an employee set fire to the house and then waited outside with an axe. Seven people were murdered, including Mamah and her children.

He rebuilt Taliesin, but first completed the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo (and Hollyhock House). After moving back in in 1922, the house went up in flames again – an electrical fire destroyed the living quarters in 1925.

He rebuilt AGAIN, but in 1927 the property was foreclosed on. Frank bought it back in 1928, and it was his home for the rest of his life.

So, what did I learn from all of this? Frank may not have been the best listener, or the best husband (a story for another time), but when he loved a piece of land, he loved it completely and forever *

*Obviously, this is an over generalization and I hope I haven’t offended anyone.

The back side of the house
The views! Griffith Observatory was built later, so this view is pure luck

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