Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Neglect of a Frank Lloyd Wright Treasure

An interesting yet sad article on the Curbed website shines a very unflattering light on USC's School of Architecture and their neglect of a lesser known Frank Lloyd Wright treasure.

I had never heard of the Samuel Freeman home when I visited it three years ago and was astounded that yet another Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece existed right under my nose. Built in 1924 for Samuel Freeman and his wife Harriet, it was inspired by their love for Wright’s Hollyhock House in East Hollywood. The exterior has approximately 12,000 textile blocks, minus the ones that have been stolen over the years.

The Freemans ran their house as an artistic and political “salon” until the 1986, when the Freemans donated their house to USC. According to the Frank Lloyd Wright website, the building was stabilized in 2005 and is undergoing additional renovations due to earthquake damage. When I visited, our guide told a different tale. A change in the faculty at the school had shifted interest, and other than having students act as live-in caretakers, the house had basically been frozen in limbo with very little work done on it for years. This information is echoed in the Curbed article, along with stories of missing/stolen furniture and light fixtures that USC has allegedly been aware of but kept very quiet about.

Looking at the photos I shot, you can see that this diamond is very much in the rough and needs more than just TLC.

The views of Hollywood Boulevard and Franklin Avenue are incredible:

…but the interior looks as if it was picked clean.

Wright must be rolling over in his grave over this living situation:

Here’s to hoping USC steps up to the plate and puts some attention (and money) towards fixing this tarnished treasure.

See more Frank Lloyd Wright photos at my main website.

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Stu29573 said...

It's a shame that this gem can't be taken away from the idiots at USC and given to a group that would truly love and care for it. I can't help but think that a private preservation group could bring this treasure back from the brink.

Major Pepperidge said...

Boy oh boy, that is awful. USC should be ashamed. They won't be, though.

beachgal said...

You need to watch the PBS special on Los Angeles FLW block structures. It gives a great background as to why this house has failed through time. The Freeman home is featured toward the end of the hour long special (that by the way, looks like the local PBS-LA channel will be featuring it on air tomorrow night. I saw it on a KQED-San Francisco airing about a month and a half ago.

Daveland said...

Beach gal - I am well aware of flaws in FLW's work; however, the issue here has nothing to do with that. Read the Curbed article; this is about neglect and letting a treasure get pillaged and fall apart. USC needs to either step up to the plate and take care of this place or sell it to someone who will.

Fifthrider said...

Agreed. The excuse of the house's "failure" is being propped up as a means to excuse poor stewardship. The vandalism the house has endured is evidence of that alone. Don't believe everything you're told in a news story, they typically have an angle hell-bent to get you to see it their way. I love that both sides of the story are being presented here and the reader can come to their old conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Dave, this is very sad. Even worse than the condition of the Robie House in Chicago.

Wright was legendary for his disregard of the elements in his designs. He was reputed to have to told a client who complained of leaks "Don't leave a work of art out in the rain".

But, this is not an excuse for allowing a work of art to decay. Ownership should step up or sell the property.

It's a mystery to me why these great works of architecture are allowed to rot, even the Robie house needed a lot of work.

The sums required to restore them are not huge, especially in comparison to today's markets. The Robie House said they needed 25 million dollars for a full restoration. This is peanuts in construction dollars. We frequently see private homes in some California neighborhoods far exceeding that sum, so there is money available for those, but not for preservation of acknowledged masterworks.

Some building materials manufacturer could easily fund the project for branding rights and earn the everlasting gratitude of the architecture and design communities in the process.

Probably will never happen.

Thank you for the pictures.


Janey said...

This is seriously a tragedy. The Curbed piece was a shock and it really makes me lose respect for USC. Thank you for sharing these images! I would love to be able to check it out one day!


Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken, USC has an architecture school. How could they allow this to happen?? KS