Los Feliz: Barnsdall Park Part I


Facade of Hollyhock House pre-renovations.

In continuing with the everything spaces of Los Feliz, I turn to a compound for the arts dreamed up by a mother for her only daughter. This arts utopia, set on Olive Hill, is now called Barnsdall Art Park. Although tiny compared to the close-by Mother of All Everything Spaces Griffith Park, it is not short on things to do.

The first hurdle to getting to Barnsdall Park is finding it. At first glance while standing on Vermont Avenue, all you see are strip malls. It is hard to imagine that behind the Payless Shoes and Fallas Paredes there is a a Frank Lloyd Wright house and an art gallery. There are two ways to access the park. If you take the metro red line the most convenient entrance is off Barnsdall Avenue. A half a block east from Vermont, on Barnsdall, there are a set of steep stairs that lead you to up and into the east side of the park. If you come from Hollywood Blvd. there is a more well marked entrance.  I prefer Hollywood with its view of the Griffith Observatory and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House.


Hollyhock House

The reason most people make the hike up Olive Hill is to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House. Like the Ennis House, which is no longer on tour, it is in the Mayan Revival style. This is the phase where many Wright’s buildings included designs that both reflected mesoamerican motifs and art deco. The main motif of this house is Wright’s abstraction of the hollyhock flower, Aline Barnsdall’s favorite, which you can still find growing around the property (Both pictured. Can you see the similarity?)


Hollyhock re-opened Valentines weekend 2015 after what seemed like an eternity of renovations. They had hurdles, like damage from the 1994 earthquake that was never fully repaired, water damage from a pool flood, and the USO remodel of the kitchen in the 1950s meant taking out tons of laminate and formica. The walls are now back to their golden green patina that was a distinctive part of the house and the carpets, still following the hollyhock motif, have been beautifully restored.

The tour of the space has greatly changed from before the renovation. I won’t go room to room in this post because I think a tour of this place should definitely be on your list. I am more in favor of the docent/curator guided tour than the booklet of the “Walk Wright In” self guided tour. It needs a map of the spaces so you know where you are. (Loggia, inner peristyle, huh?) The person led tour gives you insight into the relationship of architect and client that the booklet doesn’t. For example Aline hated Wright’s design and fired him in the middle of the project.

It is sad, but understandable, that the bedrooms and back part of the home will no longer be on tour because they are only accessible by stairs, therefore not accessible by all visitors. Maybe a grant or some pro-bono work from a video team might open this up for everyone to see again.

$7 for the self guided tour

$3 for Seniors and Students with ID

$12 curator led tours during specific events. I would spend the extra $

See website for closure days.


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