The Hollyhock House, one of eight Frank Lloyd Wright buildings inscribed as a single collective UNESCO World Heritage Site and the sole UNESCO World Heritage Site in Los Angeles, will reopen on August 18 for public tours for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.
The reopening coincides with the centennial of the iconic home, which was commissioned by oil heiress Aline Barnsdall as Wright’s first L.A. project. It was completed in 1921. Envisioned as the main residence of what Barnsdall imagined as an avant-garde theater compound, the Mayan Revival-style home and a portion of the surrounding 36-acre property—then still a rural agricultural tract locally known as Olive Hill—was donated to the City of Los Angeles in 1927 for use as a public park and arts center.
Used as headquarters for the California Art Club until 1942 and subsequently threatened with demolition, the storied L.A. landmark today anchors Barnsdall Art Park, an East Hollywood cultural campus-slash-city park operated by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and maintained by the Department of Recreation and Parks with the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation serving as the nonprofit steward of the site. Also home to the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Art Center & Junior Art Center, Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, and a historic olive grove that predates the construction of Hollyhock House, the 11.5-acre hilltop campus is designated as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.
The DCA and office of Councilmember Mitch O’ Farrell made the big reopening announcement, noting that beginning on August 18 self-guided tours will resume of Hollyhock House’s interior and restored grounds. (They’re offered Thursdays through Saturdays, with advanced registration required.) On August 20, the DCA will also host a community bash on Hollyhock House’s lawn celebrating the reopening of all Barnsdall Art Park’s facilities. The fête will feature free hot dogs (!), crafts, live music, and puppetry courtesy the legendary Bob Baker Marionette Theater.
“We’ve now weathered the storm of COVID-19, and I can’t wait to welcome people back to this iconic place,” said O’Farrell in statement.
Hot dogs and marionettes aside, the main draw for many will be Hollyhock House itself, which was subject to an extensive renovation process that kicked off in 2005 and concluded in 2015. After reopening in 2015 post-restoration, the home enjoyed a several-year run of public hours coinciding with its hard-fought UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription in July 2019. (The seven other buildings that comprise the 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright are Unity Temple, Fallingwater, Taliesin, Taliesin West, the Robie House, the Jacobs House, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.) In early 2020, however, the site was shuttered by the city once again, this time due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The DCA took advantage of the temporary pause in public tours to embark on “significant transformations” at both Hollyhock House and Residence A, as DCA interim general manager Daniel Tarica put it. Residence A is a Wright-designed guest house located within the UNESCO World Heritage site boundaries and also designated as a National Historic Landmark. Per a DCA press release, structural restoration work at Residence A, which kicked off pre-pandemic with $5 million in funding from the city and a National Park Service grant, wrapped up late last year; phase 2 revamps focused on the interior and landscape are now underway. A public reopening date for the interior of Residence A has yet to be announced.
Back at the main residence, work focused on the conservation of the National Historic Landmark–listed building’s cast stone, art glass windows, woodwork, and landscape as part of an effort to “enhance DCA’s interpretation of the site and Wright’s original design.” Per the Los Angeles Times, the project entailed restoring the home’s massive fireplace and reinstalling two Wright-designed sofas. Visitors to the rejuvenated site along with those visiting the larger park complex can also now access new onsite digital resources including QR code-linked digital house tours and videos documenting the restoration process, according to the DCA.
“A harbinger of California modernism, Hollyhock House continues to inspire artists, architects, and the public at large,” said Hollyhock House curator Abbey Chamberlain Brach. “We’re eager to welcome visitors back inside Hollyhock House to experience firsthand Wright’s dramatic expression of California, which feels as modern now as it did upon its completion 100 years ago.”
The pandemic-era round of conservation work at Hollyhock House and ongoing restoration of Residence A are being carried out in collaboration between the city’s Bureau of Engineering, in the role of lead architect and project manager, and the Department of General Services as general contractor. The nonprofit Project Restore is serving as grant administrator and restoration manager.
More information on the August 20 reopening Lawn Party can be found here.