Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House

When I received this month’s issue of Preservation (published by the National Trust) I was excited to see one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian Homes on the cover. The Usonian Home is a Wright design made for the middle class family. The first one, the Jacobs House, was built in 1936 and several followed in the ensuing years. Averaging 1200 square feet these modest homes had the distinct Frank Lloyd Wright touch. I absolutely adore them and the Pope-Leighey House featured in the issue is particularly beautiful. Located in Alexandria, VA it’s a bit too far for me to visit and the only local Usonian Home, the George Sturges House, is privately owned (though was recently available for $2.5 million – a tad out of my budget). Instead I must content myself to visit the one area Wright home that is open to the public – the Hollyhock House.

The Hollyhock House is located in Hollywood and recently reopened to visitors after a multi-year restoration. I attempted to visit the weekend of the reopening but wasn’t even able to get into the parking lot because it was so crowded! So I waited until the furor died down and headed there on a recent weekend.

The home is the centerpiece of Barnsdall Art Park a public art complex named after the home’s owner, Aline Barnsdall. An oil heiress with a penchant for the arts Ms. Barnsdall commission Wright to build the home in 1919. Completed in 1921 it was initially intended to be the centerpiece of an artistic compound but only two additional structures were built. Barnsdall occupied the home for a few short years before donating it and the surrounding grounds to the city in 1927 in order to create a public art park which is it’s function to this day.

The home is open for tours and is spectacularly beautiful. Named after Ms. Barnsdall’s favorite flower much of the design elements are interpretations of the hollyhock. Unlike the Usonian homes it was not built on a budget and is a massive multi-leveled structure featuring much stained glass, a modern (for the time) kitchen and a reflecting pool surrounding the fireplace. The reflecting pool is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in a home, probably because it was completely impractical. Though mpty for most of its existence it still adds a distinct touch to the living room. Unfortunately, interior photos are not allowed so I can’t share it here.

My only complaint about visiting the Hollyhock house is that very little of it is walk-able. Most rooms are viewed through the doorway and prevents one from experiencing it fully. But since it’s the only area Frank Lloyd Wright home currently open to the public I’ll take what I can get. Regardless of the limited access it’s definitely worth visiting and, until I make my millions and buy my own Usonian home, I’m sure I’ll be back.

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