The Los Angeles Times reports that USC has sold the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Freeman House to a private buyer — with agreement that it be preserved.
In 1986, Harriet Press Freeman bequeathed to USC’s School of Architecture the home that she and her husband, Samuel Freeman, had commissioned for themselves back in the ’20s.
The 2,800-square-foot structure in the Hollywood Hills was one of four textile-block homes designed by Wright in the Los Angeles area in the ’20s. Its individual blocks were crafted from a mix of sand and Portland cement and embossed with a pre-Columbian-style motif. The Freeman House doesn’t stand on the land so much as it emerges from the hillside like an earthen temple.
But, like many Wright structures — especially those built out of textile blocks — its maintenance has been a never-ending series of challenges. The roof leaked. Rain soaked the fragile blocks, which began to flake and crumble. Rust chewed away at the steel armature around which the blocks had been assembled. In 1994, the Northridge earthquake shifted the home’s foundation, cracking walls and knocking out a chimney. A FEMA grant of $901,000, along with $1.5 million in funds raised by USC, paid for structural repairs. But plans for a full restoration of the deteriorated façades and other damaged elements stalled. For a time, it seemed as if the Freeman House was destined to sit in a permanent state of dilapidated half-repair.
On Thursday, USC announced that it had finalized the sale of the home to Richard E. Weintraub, president and CEO of the Weintraub Real Estate Group, a Los Angeles developer who has worked with historic properties in the past. (He and fellow developer Tom Gilmore helped bring the old St. Vibiana Cathedral in downtown L.A. back to life as a restaurant and events center.)
The university had put the house on the market back in July for $4.25 million, then knocked the price down to $3.25 million. But Weintraub says he was able to acquire it for $1.8 million due to the extensive repairs that are still needed.
It’s a deal that comes with plenty of conditions: in the form of a conservation easement held by the Los Angeles Conservancy that prohibits Weintraub or any future buyer from demolishing the building or making unsympathetic additions. Moreover, as part of the deal, the public — in the form of educational groups or architectural tours — will have access to the home four times a year. (A similar easement governs the Ennis House in Los Feliz, another of Wright’s textile-block homes.) For more information, click here and if you have not already gotten a copy of the OA+D journal that explores the history and importance of the Freeman House written by Kathryn Smith, then order your copy here.
The Wright Plus housewalk is returning to its regularly scheduled season this year on Saturday, May 21. The annual fundraiser for the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust has faced challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and experienced multiple cancellations, rescheduled dates and pushed the event to the fall in 2021.
This year’s walk will return in full-force on a spring weekend with a focus on the neighborhood surrounding The Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio. Vicki Kwarciany, who along with Co-Chair Sue Blaine is organizing the walk, says “The fall walk last year had glorious weather, which we were grateful for, but there’s something about preparing all winter, and then having the walk in the spring, when everything opens up. We’re happy we’re back on schedule.”
The walk will feature eight private residences located on Forest Avenue, Kenilworth Avenue and Elizabeth Court — all within walking distance of the Home & Studio. Kwarciany says that having everything in such close proximity to the Home & Studio makes for a block party atmosphere.
The new house this year is the Humphrey House on Elizabeth Court. Kwarciany says that a Frank Lloyd Wright Trust volunteer researcher recently discovered the house was misnamed as the Reed House. In reality, the first owners of the 1887 Queen Anne style home were Simon and Elizabeth Humphrey. The street was later named Elizabeth Court her honor.
Another interesting addition to the walk is the David and Carolyn Kennedy Coach House. Designed by architects Patton and Fisher, the coach house was originally part of the estate of the Kennedy House on Kenilworth Avenue, a Queen Anne style home built in 1888 and also on this year’s walk. The coach house was last featured on Wright Plus in 1984, and Kwarciany says that visitors will enjoy getting a glimpse into the space.
Other houses on this year’s walk are two Wright remodels: the Hills-DeCaro House on Forest Avenue, which underwent a Japanese-influenced remodel under Wright in 1906, and across the street, the William and Frances Copeland House, an 1870s-era Italianate that Wright remodeled in 1909.
Also featured are the Laura Gale House designed by Wright in 1909 on Elizabeth Court, which has echoes of his later design for Falling Water in Pennsylvania. Non-Wright designs include the John and Elsie Vette House built on Forest Avenue in 1905 and designed by William G. Barfield. Down the street is the Queen Anne style James and Ellen Hayden House built in 1893 and designed by William K. Johnson.
Kwarciany says that this year’s walk will be a treat for architecture and history lovers.
“Most of the houses are going to show multiple floors this year, so there’s a lot to see,” Kwarciany said. “Even though many of the architecturally significant details are often downstairs, there are frequently interesting features upstairs, and visitors love to see as much as they can inside the houses.”
Tickets for Wright Plus are still available as of press time and cost $125 or $90 for Frank Lloyd Wright Trust members. Limited tickets remain for the Fast Pass at $600 for members and $565 for non-members, which offers priority entrance to the homes on the day of the housewalk.
Ultimate Plus Weekend tickets at $2,675 for members and $2,525 for non-members are almost sold out. The weekend experience is a one-of-a-kind architecture and design experience over the Wright-centered weekend and includes Fast Pass entry on Wright Plus Saturday, a lunch that day at the Nineteenth Century Club, an exclusive day tour on May 20, dinner in a Wright home, accommodations and transportation to all events.
Likewise, few tickets remain for Ultimate Saturday, which includes a Fast Pass the day of the walk, lunch at the Nineteenth Century Club and a Wright dinner. Ultimate Saturday tickets cost $1,375 for Frank Lloyd Wright Trust members and $1,250 for non-members.
All tour participants will be required to show provide proof of vaccination. For more details on the day, purchasing tickets, and tour packages, visit here.