Wright Data Wrong

September 15, 1985

I was very pleased to see the article by Kenneth Ross (June 16) commemorating Frank Lloyd Wright's birthday and recalling his association with our country's greatest architect. Ross certainly reflected on a great opportunity that was overlooked to the detriment of us all.

I would like to point out certain mistakes in chronology in the text.

Wright was born in 1867, and this year marks his 118th birthday, not his 116th. Wright and Aline Barnsdall first met in Chicago between 1914 and 1915 when she approached him with a commission to design a theater for the new experimental ideas for staging emerging in Europe and the United States. He did several schemes for her before she moved to Los Angeles, and it was only then that she asked him to design a house for her as well.

Her enthusiasm and dreams grew over the years, and it was not until 1920 that she expanded her original concept to include two guest houses, a row of stores with houses above them and a motion picture theater. The Hollyhock House and the two guest houses, the only buildings ever built of Wright's plan, were completed in 1921, not 1920.

Her reasons for abandoning the project were very complex, but probably due more to the fact that she had enlarged her vision beyond her capacity to see it through to completion than to the loss of Richard Ordynski, her director.

The textile-block system, in the form that Wright invented it and would recognize it, has not, unfortunately, been adopted by the building trades. We should all be grateful to Mrs. Dorothy Murray, a close friend of Aline Barnsdall, who made funds available to renovate the house; but it was not shortly after 1926, it was after World War II--20 years later. The California Art Club leased and occupied Hollyhock House as its clubhouse from 1927 until 1943.

These discrepancies in dates did not mar an otherwise interesting reminiscence by an important figure in the Wright story in Los Angeles. The readers of The Times would benefit greatly from more architectural reporting. I would urge the editor to replace the position of architectural reporter/critic so long vacant on your newspaper.


Los Angeles

Smith is an architectural historian and researcher.

Editor's Note--Although most standard references state that Wright was born June 8, 1869, his home town of Richland Center, Wis., then did not keep birth records. A sister maintained that Wright was born in 1867.

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