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Another nip-tuck for Hollyhock House

Frank Lloyd Wright's landmark in Hollywood will be made watertight, windows sent out for cleaning and some flooring replaced.

May 05, 2011|By Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times
  • Main living room of the Hollyhock House.
Main living room of the Hollyhock House. (Annie Wells / Los Angeles…)

For its 90th birthday, Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House is getting another round of rejuvenating restoration work, with the partial makeover priced at $4.3 million.

Work on the city-owned National Historic Landmark perched on a Hollywood hilltop will begin after Memorial Day; the current five-day schedule of guided tours will be reduced to Fridays through Sundays during the renovations, which are expected to take about 18 months.

The project is the third phase in the ongoing restoration of Hollyhock House — the first two phases, from 2000 to 2005, cost $21 million, mainly to repair damage from the 1994 Northridge earthquake and stabilize the Barnsdall Park hillside fronting Hollywood Boulevard.

Curator Jeffrey Herr said Wednesday that results from the coming round of renovations won't be all that visible to visitors, but they will make the notoriously leaky building more watertight, with new roofing for its enclosed porch and solutions to an assortment of drainage problems.

Some of Hollyhock House's geometrically patterned stained-glass windows will be sent out for special restorative cleaning, and the porch's concrete floor, installed during a 1970s renovation, will be replaced by oak that matches the original 1921 floor trod by Wright's client, Aline Barnsdall.

The work list also includes repairing cracks in two fountains on the grounds, which could pave the way for them to be refilled with water for the first time in years — although Herr says that the entire project budget may be used up on the house itself, leaving it to future fundraising to provide for the fountains' revival.

Inside, the project aims to better anchor the living room fireplace that's one of Hollyhock House's hallmarks, in hopes of preventing damage in future earthquakes. Also on the agenda is re-adjusting the Modernist stone mural above the fireplace, which shifted slightly in the 1994 quake, according to a consultant's report. Herr said an engineering report he received Wednesday had some good news: The ground under the fireplace is solid, rather than loose dirt that would pose a high risk of giving way in a quake and causing it to topple. Leaving the fireplace as-is remains an option. Herr said there's no plan to refill the indoor moat that surrounds it, because water vapor would be harmful to furnishings.

The separate garage and chauffeur's quarters also are being renovated — about $200,000 worth of work that Herr said is nearly complete. Longer-range plans call for eventually outfitting the garage with utilities and climate control, so it can be converted into a museum shop selling books and gifts related to Hollyhock House and the nearby Municipal Art Gallery.

Pots of state, city and federal money are funding the renovations — with the state and municipal contributions drawn from bond revenues OK'd years ago, before California and Los Angeles found themselves neck-deep in red ink.

The California Cultural and Historical Endowment has provided $1.9 million from a grant fund created by a bond issue voters approved in 2002; Herr said the city tapped a variety of capital-project funds to come up with the required match. The project coffer also includes a $489,000 "Save America's Treasures" grant from the National Parks Service.

Other California Cultural and Historical Endowment grants in Los Angeles County have included $4 million to renovate the Los Angeles Theatre Center, $1.7 million for the Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena, $2.5 million for the recently opened La Plaza de Cultura y de Artes in downtown Los Angeles, $2.6 million for new exhibits and renovations at the Museum of Tolerance, $2.4 million to renovate the city-owned, 1930-vintage Vision Theatre in Leimert Park and $1.3 million to restore the "Great Wall of Los Angeles" history mural that stretches for more than a half-mile along the Tujunga Wash flood control channel.

While renovations at Hollyhock House go forward, Friends of Hollyhock House, a private support group, is about to embark on a campaign to raise at least $500,000 to restore its gardens and landscaping. The campaign's kickoff will come June 10 at Hollyhock House, in a two-days-belated celebration of Wright's 144th birthday.

"Having the gardens restored would give Hollyhock House back its curb appeal," Herr said, especially the drive-up area called the Motor Court. "It's now a sort of hideous piece of blacktop. Plantings would give it a completely different feel."

mike.boehm@latimes.com

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