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News and updates from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Phase 1 Restoration of Wright’s “Residence A” Now Complete

Abbey Chamberlain Brach | Dec 22, 2021

Abbey Chamberlain Brach, Curator at Hollyhock House, discusses the completion of phase 01 of the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Residence A” at Hollyhock House in East Hollywood.

On September 26th, 1921, Frank Lloyd Wright wrote to C. D. Goldthwaite, general contractor for Residences A and B, the guest houses to Aline Barnsdall’s Hollyhock House and planned arts complex in East Hollywood. He stated simply, “we consider your work on residences ‘A’ and ‘B’, erected for the Olive Hill Construction Company satisfactory and completed.” 100 years to the date, restoration architect Hsiao-Ling Ting suggested in jest that the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs do the just same, proclaiming that after four years of work on city-owned Residence A, the transformational phase 1 restoration was complete. But with work that far exceeded mere “satisfactory” standards, a short notification from one project partner to another didn’t really capture the excitement we all felt. However, the recent phase 1 unveiling by Los Angeles City Council President Pro Tempore Mitch O’Farrell certainly did. Joined by city and community leaders, we celebrated this exciting milestone for the project.

Residence A, 2021. Photographs by Stan Ecklund, courtesy of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and Hollyhock House

Image 01: Frank Lloyd Wright to C. D. Goldthwaite, September 26, 1921. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York).

Image 02: Residence A phase 1 restoration “unwrapping” by Los Angeles City Council President Pro Tempore Mitch O’Farrell with project team members and supporters, December 15, 2021.

With meticulously restored exterior finishes, the landmark guest house once again shines in Barnsdall Park within Hollyhock House’s UNESCO World Heritage site boundary. The City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, the Bureau of Engineering, Department of General Services, and the non-profit Project Restore have now finished structural and seismic work, recreated key exterior elements, and improved building systems to return the architectural masterpiece to its original 1921 outward appearance. The planned phase 2 will provide critical interior detailing, furnishings, finishes, and infrastructure repair, as well as exterior landscaping and ADA-commensurate hardscaping needed to re-open the site to the public. As Councilmember O’Farrell described “it has been amazing to watch Residence A literally come back to life. With phase 1 completed, it’s onward to phase 2, so we can not only celebrate the beauty and grandeur of this building, but enable all Angelenos to fully access, enjoy, and learn from this priceless piece of history” (not to mention Wright fans the world over).

“With phase 1 completed, it’s onward to phase 2, so we can not only celebrate the beauty and grandeur of this building, but enable all Angelenos to fully access, enjoy, and learn from this priceless piece of history”

Residence A’s most striking architectural feature has always been the cantilevered balcony on the north facade. With inadequate original support, this element failed long ago and was replaced with an ill-suited wooden one that had posts to the ground. As part of phase 1 work, the original design was recreated using plans and historic photos. This reconstructed balcony with newly cast art stone now relies on structural steel (not wood) to keep it suspended. For more restoration highlights, visit Hollyhock House’s YouTube playlist Frank Lloyd Wright’s Residence A.

 

While many know Hollyhock House, the restored Residence A will be a revelation to most, even Wright aficionados. As former Hollyhock House Curator Jeffrey Herr said at the unveiling, “it is truly the newest architectural gem in Frank Lloyd Wright’s canon.” Residence A can now showcase new facets of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work on Olive Hill, as well as the vision Aline Barnsdall and her architect shared for an arts and theater community at Barnsdall Park. More so than the main house, Residence A relates to Wright’s many unbuilt designs for the site—the theater director’s residence and the terrace houses in particular. Residence A also more closely relates to Wright’s Midwest prairie-style work just preceding it and his Los Angeles hillside homes to follow—for which he may be best known in California. Famed modernist RM Schindler first arrived in southern California to work for Wright on this commission, and his hand is most evident in the design of Residence A. With phase 1 now complete, site interpretation can better explore these connections and the rich legacy of art and architecture on Olive Hill.

Image of building ornamentation detail

Residence A, 2021. Photographs by Stan Ecklund, courtesy of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and Hollyhock House

Join me for a special Hollyhock House IN FOCUS Virtual Tour on Friday, January 7th at 10 am PT. I’ll be sharing a closer at Residence A, highlights from the phase 1 restoration (now complete) and details of what’s to come in phase 2. We will have an extended question-and-answer segment with the Residence A restoration team as part of the program.

IN FOCUS Tours stream live on Hollyhock House’s Facebook page.

For more information and to RSVP, visit the event page

Residence A, 2021. Photographs by Stan Ecklund, courtesy of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and Hollyhock House

View of the Hollywood Sign from Residence A

View of the Hollywood Hills from Residence A, 2021. Photograph by Stan Ecklund, courtesy of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and Hollyhock House

News and updates from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation