U.S. National Register of Historic Places (National Park Service), added May 6, 1971. U.S. National Historic Landmark, designated April 4, 2007. L.A. Historic-Cultural Monument #12, adopted January 4, 1963.
Hollyhock House was built for the wealthy oil heiress Aline Barnsdall from 1919 to 1921. The house is named after Barnsdall’s favorite flower - the hollyhock - which Wright used as a central decorative theme throughout the house. In his autobiography, Wright expressed his desire to create a unique architecture for the location: “Hollyhock House was to be a natural house in the changed circumstances and naturally built; native to the region of California as the house in the Middle West had been native Middle West.” The Hollyhock House is part of a larger site, Olive Hill, purchased by Barnsdall to also include a repertory theater company and public performance space. Wright was living in Tokyo, Japan and working on the Imperial Hotel while the house was constructed. He delegated the supervision of the project to his son Lloyd Wright and R.M. Schindler.
Reflecting the Mediterranean climate of Los Angeles, the Hollyhock House’s design melds exterior and interior living space through terraces for each room. An intricate circulation pattern is built around an inner courtyard. Wright designed the furniture for the dining room and the living room, as well as geometrically patterned art glass for the windows. The hearth in the living room is built of concrete block in contrast to the use of brick in Wright’s earlier designs. The fireplace also has an elaborately designed bas-relief and is surrounded by a small moat, thus incorporating the elements of earth, water, fire, and air.
Set on a cast-concrete base, the Hollyhock house has canted walls of hollow terra-cotta tile covered with stucco. Ornamentation including stylized hollyhocks are made of cast-concrete. Masonry walls covered with stucco extend out from the major ground floor rooms to enclose terraces.
In June of 1919, Barnsdall purchased the 36 acre Olive Hill property for $300,000. Several years before closing on the property, she had commissioned Wright to build her home, a performance theater, as well as a furnished house for the theater company director (“Residence A”) and an apartment building for the actors (“Residence B”). Barnsdall became disenchanted with maintaining the property and convinced that her theater would not become the cultural center she dreamed of. In December of 1923, she offered the Hollyhock House and the surrounding land to the City of Los Angeles for use as a public park. It was not until 1927 that the city accepted Barnsdall’s offer under revised terms. As a condition to her donation, Barnsdall lived in Residence B on the Olive Hill property on and off from 1928 to her death in 1946.
Ada Louise Huxtable writes that the Hollyhock House has “no established or identifiable style” and bears the influences of “Aztec, Mayan, Egyptian, and Mexican pre-Columbian” architecture. In particular, the upper exterior walls pitched at 85 degrees are reminiscent of Mayan architecture. During the early 20th Century, pre-Columbian excavations were underway, sparking an interest in these ancient civilizations. Wright saw exhibits of pre-Columbia architecture as early as 1893 at Chicago’s world fair and in 1915 at the Panama-Pacific Exposition. Wright was silent on the issue of the home’s historical influences, preferring that his work not be seen as derivative but rather as a completely new indigenous form of architecture which he coined “California Romanza”.
Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings, UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List, Submited by U.S. Department of Interior, January 2008.; Friends of Hollyhock House website, Hollyhock House History; Available at http://www.hollyhockhouse.net/hhhistory.html.;  Hoffmann, Donald. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House. New York: Dover Publications, 1992.; Huxtable, Ada Louise. Frank Lloyd Wright. New York: Penguin Group, 2004.; Karasick, Norman M. Art, politics, and Hollyhock House. 1982.; Lind, Carla. Frank Lloyd Wright’s California houses. San Francisco: Pomegranate Artbooks, 1996.; Steele, James. Barnsdall House: Frank Lloyd Wright. London: Phaidon, 1992.; Smith, Kathryn. Frank Lloyd Wright, Hollyhock House and Olive Hill: buildings and projects for Aline Barnsdall. New York: Rizzoli, 1992.; Rabin, Jeffrey L. “Hollyhock House Restoration Starts”, Los Angeles Times, April 10, 2000.; Wright, Frank Lloyd. An autobiography. New York: Horizon Press, 1977.; Storrer, William Allin. The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: A Complete Catalog.