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Barnsdall Park History and Photographs

     ** Click Here To View Photos **


Long before the cultural movement was to strike Los Angeles, Aline Barnsdall purchased Olive Hill on June 3, 1919, for the purpose or establishing an art center. The property, consisting of thirty-six acres bounded by Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, Vermont Avenue and Edgemont Street, had been given its name in the 1890s by J.H. Spires, who planted the area extensively with olivetrees. The panoramic view from the top of Olive Hill was spectacular. Miss Barnsdall, a millionnairess due to her father's oil interest, had long been interested in the arts, and from 1916 to 1919 operated the Little Theater at Pico and Figueroa Streets.

Determined to make Los Angeles the cultural center of America, Miss Barnsdall commissioned Prank Lloyd Wright as the architect for the project. She planned to build a residence for herself which Wright assured her would be all that 'poetry in form' could imply, a symphony in an “edifice of sound'. She prenamed the house Hollyhock and asked wright to render her favorite flower as a feature of the home's architecture. This he did with abstract hollyhocks, cast in concrete and repeated throughout the design of the structure. In addition, she planned to build a theater, art gallery and library. Construction began in the fall of 1919 with Wright’s eldest son, Lloyd, directing the building of Hollyhock House. with the help of Lloyd, Aline Barnsdall planted pine groves on the hill behind the house and great masses of eucalyptus to enclose them. When the house was finished, some described it as Mayan in influence however, Lloyd Wright said that his father developed it to reflect a mesa silhouette as originated by the Pueblo Indians. In January, 1921, a director's house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, was built on the northeast corner of the hill. Eight months later, a guest house, also Wright designed, was built on the westside overlooking Edgemont Street. From the late 1800s, many photographs had been taken of Olive Hill and Barnsdall Park and Hollyhock House.

 For personal reasons, Aline Barnsdall decided, in 1923, to donate ten acres, including the Hollyhock House, to the City of Los Angeles. The City Council considered the gift, but because of too many conditions, it was refused. This marked the first of many battles between Miss Barnsdall and the City. Three years later, she again offered the ten acres to the City. This time, through an intermediary, the California Art Club, the gift was accepted on January 6, 1927. Miss Barnsdall reserved for herself, the guest house and the northeast corner of the hill.

The millionnairess submitted a plan to the City in February, 1931, by which it could acquire, by lease and loan option basis, the remaining eighteen acres on Olive Hill. The City was ready to accept the offer when a property owner's group, fearing increased taxes, stormed Mayor Porter's office in protest. Despite his feeling,that to turn down the offer would be a mistake, Mayor Porter failed in his attempt to convince the City Council to accept the benevolent gesture. Upset with rejection, Miss Barnsdell left for Paris. Upon returning to Los Angeles, she constructed several‘ large billboards on the property on which she posted messages demanding that the City lease her property. They never did. Later the signs were used to convey her sentiments on a variety of  subjects.


Due to some serious structural deterioration, a major rehabilitation initiated in 1974 provided improvements and repairs that helped restore much of the building’s original appearance.  In 1989, the autumnal color scheme of Aline Barnsdall’s day was recreated in the living room, and in 1990 Wright’s custom designed living room furniture was replicated and installed in its proper location.  Research and restoration remain active priorities for the future. Today, surrounded by a modern theater, galleries and studios, Hollyhock House comes closer than ever before to realizing its original purpose as the centerpiece of a functioning arts complex.  Hollyhock House has been named one of the most significant structures of the 20th century by The American Institute of Architects and achieved National Historic Landmark recognition in 1997.  The house attracts thousands of visitors annually, who come from around the world to acknowledge its place in the cultural and architectural history of Los Angeles.


There are about a dozen rare photographs of Barnsdall Park and Hollyhock on the web site. is the largest collection of photographs on the subject of Hollywood and all the photos are available for purchase. With over 6000 images on the web site, there's bound to be a photograph you would like to have.

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