Sunday, June 1, 2008

No. 149 - Ennis-Brown House

Ennis-Brown House

Ennis-Brown House
1924 – Frank Lloyd Wright
2607 Glendower Avenue – map
Declared: 3/3/76

The last and largest of four textile-block houses built by Frank Lloyd Wright in the Los Angeles area in a short run in the mid-twenties, the Ennis-Brown House has seen the best and worst of times. Today, it sits vacant, awaiting a future which, at this point, is unclear. At least to me.

Ennis-Brown House

Wright built the home and its two-story garage and chauffeur’s quarters across the motor court for Charles W. Ennis (1858-1928) and his wife, Mabel (1863-1954). The Ennises (Ennisi?) came to Los Angeles in 1901 where Charles opened up a men’s clothing store downtown

Ennis-Brown House

Wright loved to build on hillsides, so this project must’ve been a real hoot for him. The house’s art glass windows are the last he designed for any home, and the Ennis House Foundation says there remains a glass mosaic tile fireplace inside, the last in existence in any FLW structure.

Ennis-Brown House

Poor Charles Ennis got to live in the house only until 1928. More accurately, poor Charles Ennis got to live only until 1928, period. Mabel continued to call the Mayan temple home until 1936. (srk1941 says Mabel later moved into Baldwin Hills Village, making her what I can only guess is one of the few people to have broken in two L.A. landmarks. Thanks, srk1941.) When the Passing Parade’s John Nesbitt bought the house in 1940, Wright returned and added a pool on the northside terrace as well as a billiard room.

Ennis-Brown House
Ennis-Brown House

Gus Brown and his wife bought the home in 1968. They made their own alterations to the house, like replacing a bedroom, bath, and stucco wall with a Japanese garden. Brown founded the Trust for Preservation of Cultural Heritage – the forerunner of today’s Ennis House Foundation – opening the landmark for tours. He wound up donating the monument to the organization before dying in 2002.

Ennis-Brown House
Ennis-Brown House
The motor court. Garage to the right.

1994’s earthquake and a rainy winter a decade later beat the hell out of the house, so much so the city’s Department of Building and Safety red-tagged the home as unsafe for entry. The following year, in 2006, the Foundation gathered a bunch of funding and began restoration. Here’s a paragraph pulled lock, stock, and barrel from the Los Angeles Conservancy website regarding the new construction:
The project team built a new structural frame to support the motor court, chauffeur's quarters, and part of the south wall, which had partially collapsed. The team also replaced the roof; repaired and restored interior woodwork, floors, ceilings, art-glass doors and windows, and a mosaic glass tile mural; painted the kitchen cabinetry in its original color; and cleaned interior concrete blocks. They repaired or replaced nearly 3,000 of the house’s 30,000 concrete blocks, many of which had eroded over time or were treated with waterproofing materials that inadvertently caused damage.
If you want to see how the house looked at its nadir, watch this clip from XamllamX:



XamllamX, if I had the bread, this would be your place. Hell yes!

Ennis-Brown House
Wright wasn't responsible for the metal-work.

I called up and bothered some guy from the Ennis House Foundation to ask him what the latest was. He told me stabilization of the house was finished in October and there are no plans for any events or fundraisers. According to its website, the Foundation is figuring rehabilitation will ultimately run ten million dollars. At this point, the house is still closed up.

Ennis-Brown House
Ennis-Brown House

The Ennis-Brown House (as it was designated in 1976) has served as a set in movies (Blade Runner, The Day of the Locust, and House on Haunted Hill, notably) and TV shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example) and ads. It’s also on the National Register of Historic Places and is a state landmark.

Ennis-Brown House
Ennis-Brown House

Sources:

Storrer, William Allin The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: A Complete Catalog The University of Chicago Press 2007 Chicago

Eakin, Hugh “Three Groups Join in Effort to Save Wright’s Ennis House” The New York Times, Aug 4, 2005

Up next: Los Angeles City Hall

14 comments:

VictorAtomic said...

Such a Beautiful Beautiful place.

Funny note... if you look at the google map street level view of the Ennis-B House you can actually see workers doing the hillside landscaping.

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

Good call. Use Google Maps' satellite view to get a nice shot of the swimming pool, too.

honeywoney said...

Hell no! I've been in that place - in the mid-eighties. I guess Gus was the old man who lived there. My friend and I were invited by two Hollywood hairdresses - (don't ask) - and it was such a weird evening. I went looking for the bathroom, way down the hall found one, the door was all glass - so much for privacy. One of the guys found me and told me that I shouldn't be walking around the house - I wasn't! Just lookin' for the loo! :) All the rooms are very boxy and claustraphobic.

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

If I had a dollar for every time I went exploring and used the 'lookin' for the loo' excuse...

honeywoney said...

hahahaha, well, y'know, whatever works...

g said...

I learned that last summer my teenaged son and his friends frequently snuck onto the property and prowled around this house. My initial reaction was to condemn what they were doing, but then I couldn't help myself from asking, "so what was it like?"

Being a teenager, he just shrugged and said "It was pretty cool."

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

Thanks, g. That makes me wish I had the poor judgment of a fifteen-year-old again (now my judgment's just a different kind of poor).

Purslane said...

For quite a while in the 1990s one could routinely wander into the house. I recall caterers setting up for a party letting me in one time. It is simply extraordinary--not a place for ordinary humans.

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

It's settled, Purslane. You, G, and I are crashing the house on Saturday.

Anonymous said...

I was able to view the house while it was still open to the public in 2003. Absolutely awe inspiring and breathtaking.
At the time, they were addressing some structural issues, but unfortunately, mother nature was unkind.
I truly hope that something can be done to revitalize it and open it again to the public.

Vanessa said...

I visited the Ennis House last month and managed to get inside (by legal means) and take a few interior photos:

http://laplaces.blogspot.com/2009/03/los-feliz-frank-lloyd-wright-houses.html

Also, thanks for creating such a great resource about Los Angeles. I just moved here a few months ago and I love your blog!

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

Fantastic shots, Vanessa (and A+ blog, too). Thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

You forgot "The Rocketeer!"

Look to See said...

In Spring 2009 the Foundation put the property up for sale, saying now only a private owner could afford the $10 million+ to restore it. They were out of funds. Much understandable ruckus by many generous people that made donations over the years to the non-profit Foundation for keeping the place standing and Open to the Public.
It has some incredible Spaces/Places inside.