Jeffrey Herr on restoration, trash digging at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House

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Jeffrey Herr on restoration, trash digging at Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House
Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1921 Hollyhock House, the first house the architect built in Los Angeles, has just received a makeover restoring some of its original architectural details. // Photograph © Lawrence K. Ho

In 1921, the finishing touches were put on an unusual, temple-like structure at the top of Olive Hill in Hollywood. Hollyhock House, as the building was called, was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright as a home for an eccentric Pennsylvania oil heiress by the name of Aline Barnsdall. The practically Mayan structure was unlike any residential structure then built in Los Angeles — and unlike anything Wright had designed before. In a 1933 story on the house, The Times reported that the architect had “a particular flair for breaking up the ordinary lines of construction.”

Now a National Historic Landmark — and a part of the Barnsdall Art Park Complex that overlooks Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills — the Hollyhock House recently underwent a six-year, $4.4-million renovation to take care of the many leaks and drainage problems that were plaguing the structure. In the process, a number of design fixes have been also been made. (Over the decades, sundry renovations stripped away important architectural details.)

On Friday, after a ribbon cutting by Mayor Eric Garcetti, Hollyhock once again opens to the public — but this time, looking much as she did when Barnsdall first opened the doors to her unusual new home in the early 1920s. ….