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Falling Water may be the most famous Frank Lloyd Wright home, but this prolific architect created memorable buildings throughout America, including several in California. The Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Feliz is home to the Ennis House, a Frank Lloyd Wright design meant to invoke the surrounding desert and the region’s ancient history. In this post, we’ll take a virtual tour of this Southern California original.
If you’d like to learn about another Los Angeles landmark, check out this blog post about the Holyland Exhibition in Silver Lake!
The Ennis House was commissioned by Charles and Mabel Ennis in 1923 and built in 1924. The house is the fourth and largest of Frank Lloyd Wright’s textile block designs, constructed primarily of molded concrete blocks in a unique graphic pattern meant to invoke ancient Mayan temples. The Ennis House complex is constructed of over 27,000 of these handmade concrete blocks. Frank Lloyd Wright was fascinated by innovative textures and building materials throughout his career, and this quartet of homes comprise a historic experiment in creative use of building materials.
The Ennis House is sometimes referred to as an example of “Mayan Revival” architecture. Bas-relief designs on the concrete blocks are patterned after symmetrical bas-relief sculptures in the ancient temple city of Uxmal in Mexico. The design also features an exterior gate made of wrought iron bent into a striking geometric pattern.
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The Ennis House faced significant setbacks during construction, mostly owing to its unusual makeup. Concrete blocks at the lower levels buckled under the weight above, causing unevenness and structural instability. The concrete was mixed with local granite in order to create a special color and texture. Unfortunately, this admixture created impurities in the final product, weakening the concrete blocks further.
Once construction reached the upper levels, Mabel and Charles Ennis took over, announcing several changes to the original design. Although these changes were intended to limit the structural instability and cost overruns of the building, they didn’t altogether succeed. Always vulnerable, the Ennis House was damaged during the Northridge Earthquake of 1994, suffering further damage during record rains in 2004 and 2005. With over fifteen million dollars in estimated repairs, the future of the Ennis House was uncertain. In 2005, the house was added to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of “11 Most Endangered Historic Places.”
In 2006, a FEMA grant was issued to begin restoration on the house, and more funds were made available by a construction loan through First Republic Bank. Reconstruction included a new structural support system and a new roof. In 2009, the Ennis House was placed on the market, eventually selling in 2011 to its current owner, billionaire Ron Burkle. A condition of the sale was that Ennis House be open to visitors twelve days each year.
To take a virtual tour of another iconic local home, click here to read our blog post about Silver Lake’s Chandelier Tree!
The Ennis House has inspired Hollywood for decades, beginning its cinematic career back in 1933 when it became a shooting location. Its unearthly façade has appeared in classics like The Haunting of Hill House, The Day of the Locust, and Blade Runner. Its interior, which reminds many visitors of a cathedral, has appeared in still more films, including The Replacement Killers and The Thirteenth Floor. Many filmmakers have used the Ennis House as an exotic setting – in Rush Hour, it was transformed into a penthouse apartment in a futuristic Hong Kong skyscraper.
Today, the Ennis House is a pilgrimage site for cinema buffs and architecture enthusiasts alike. If you’re planning to visit Los Angeles, why not plan a side trip to Los Feliz so you can pay tribute to this one-of-a-kind urban temple?
Are you interested in learning more about the Ennis House and other unique Los Angeles landmarks? At Real Estate Unlimited, we pride ourselves on our knowledge of local history and architecture. Call us to schedule a tour of Los Feliz or another unique Los Angeles neighborhood, and let us show you around these unique neighborhoods today!