Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House will soon reopen to the public

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LOS ANGELES-CA-AUGUST 7, 2019: The Hollyhock House, created by Frank Lloyd Wright, recently became L.A.'s first World Heritage Site, is photographed on Wednesday, August 7, 2019. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
The Hollyhock House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is shown in 2019 after it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

More than a century after its completion and three years after being recognized as a cultural world treasure, Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House will soon reopen to the public.

The landmark home in East Hollywood's Barnsdall Art Park was closed for more than two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs used the hiatus to complete a series of restoration and improvement projects at the home, which was commissioned in 1918 by oil heiress Aline Barnsdall.

Hollyhock House will reopen Aug. 18 and show off a series of "significant transformations,'' said Daniel Tarica, interim general manager of the cultural affairs agency.

The home's monumental fireplace, which brings together the four classical elements of earth, air, fire and water, has been restored, as have the art-glass balcony doors in the master bedroom.

Two Wright-designed sofa tables, which the architect had said he considered "part of the house design itself," have been reinstalled.

The improvements also included a major restoration of a guest house, known as "Residence A." A cantilevered balcony on the north side of the structure, which had fallen away, has been fully re-created, with a steel frame to ensure its longevity. Exterior finishes long covered by multiple layers of paint have been restored to Wright's original vision, including art stone that wraps around the building.

The Chicago-based architect increased his visits to Los Angeles as he traveled to Tokyo, where he designed the Imperial Hotel. Along the way, he met Barnsdall, a philanthropist, theater producer, political progressive, world traveler and lover of the hollyhock flower. Wright agreed to incorporate the floral element into his design for the house.

The result, Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne wrote in 2017, "is a transitional work in many respects — a bridge between the scores of charismatic Prairie Style houses he'd designed in the Midwest and the starker architecture he'd turn to once he was fully established in Los Angeles." Hawthorne and other critics also noted the nods to Mayan and Spanish Revival architecture.

Barnsdall and Wright famously feuded over the construction of the home and what she perceived as design flaws. The architect later said Barnsdall was his “most difficult client.” She never lived in the Hollyhock House and donated it to the city of Los Angeles in 1927.

Over the decades, it saw periods of disrepair. In 1946, the architect's son, Lloyd Wright, helped lead an earlier restoration, redesigning and modernizing the kitchen — changes that later restorations left in place.

The city worked with the nonprofit Project Restore to make some of the more recent improvements. Said one former curator: “For people who are revisiting the house, it’s a revelation. They come in the house and literally their jaws drop.”

In 2019, UNESCO declared the home a World Heritage Site — the only location in Los Angeles to achieve that international status symbol.

Less than a year later, the home became one of many cultural institutions to close with the onset of the pandemic.

With the reopening, self-guided tours will be available Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The city says the reopening "will offer unprecedented access to Hollyhock House’s restored outdoor spaces, showcasing new aspects of Wright’s self-proclaimed 'garden house.' ” Advanced ticket purchases are required at hollyhockhouse.org.

Other facilities in Barnsdall Park are also reopening, including the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, the Barnsdall Arts Center and the Barnsdall Junior Arts Center.

The Cultural Affairs Department is hosting a free reopening party for the community on Saturday, Aug. 20, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.