Ennis-Brown House in Trouble

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Ennis-Brown House in Trouble

Postby davidk6 » Tue Jan 18, 2005 6:16 pm


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Ennis-Brown

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from a previous post...

Postby modfan » Wed Jan 19, 2005 7:45 am


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Postby davidk6 » Wed Jan 19, 2005 1:03 pm


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Postby davidk6 » Wed Jan 19, 2005 1:14 pm


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Postby nichols » Wed Jan 19, 2005 4:17 pm

Storer house

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Postby SDR » Thu Jan 20, 2005 12:58 pm

"As the house neared completion, Lloyd expressed concern about the result. His father responded [by telegram, from Taliesin-?]. . .that 'color would help the Storer house -- the awnings especially should go on at once. Color if judiciously applied to the piers would help a lot. I think what you say is probably true as to its lacking joy. We'll see however before we finish'" [quoted from "Wright in Hollywood" by Robert L Sweeney. p62]. The awnings were designed by Lloyd and were installed shortly thereafter. "Although he moved in, the house was placed on the market shortly after completion and was sold in 1927. The first documented impression we find of the house, other than that provided by the Wrights, came in 1931 from Pauline Schindler, by then separated from her husband and renting it." She found it 'superb' and wrote that it gave her 'superlative joy.'" Sweeney calls it "part temple and part grotto" and particularly admires the sweeping city views from its upper level living room (a favorite and lifelong Wrightian device; see discussion of the theory of "prospect and refuge" in Grant Hildebrand, "The Wright Space"). Mr Silver's furnishings, as photographed, certainly provide appropriate color and warmth to the interior.

R M Schindler built a house for Charles P Lowes on his lot at Eagle Rock (near Pasadena) in the same year. It shared with Wright's plan a central ground-floor dining room open to terraces on both sides. Pauline invited Schindler to see the Storer house and there was talk of his designing furnishings for it, as he later did for the Freeman's textile block house.

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Postby SDR » Thu Jan 20, 2005 5:24 pm

Anyway, the point of this thread is the threat to the Ennis-Brown House, and efforts to raise awareness and urgently-needed funds for its rescue and restoration. The great retaining wall, which provides the house with its visual (if not literal) foundation, has been a problem area from the time of construction. Lloyd Wright, again supervising construction for his father, reported six months after construction commenced that there was cracking, bulging and popping of blocks in parts of the wall, whose construction consisted of the block surface, connected to perpendicular crib-walls at 8-foot intervals, tied to the hill with horizontal concrete beams, the whole back-filled with "soil or sand" (Sweeney). I am not clear on what steps were taken, then or later, to remedy the defect; Wright told Lloyd ". . .cracks nor bulge of no great significance."

Later difficulties with the architecture were of a more cosmetic nature, though no less distressing to the architects, father and son. The clients, possibly attempting to save costs, lowered ceilings and made them flat instead of coffered, and substituted window-head lintels for the stepped-block designs specified. In addition (according to Sweeney): massing and block patterning were modified; the front door was moved 12 feet (from the termination of an open loggia to its outer end); white marble replaced the shale flooring intended for the entry and loggia; a low wall separating dining from living room was lowered by one course and a glass screen intended there was eliminated; "Wrightian" leaded-glass windows of uncertain parentage, instead of Wright's simpler rectangular design (coordinated with the block pattern), were installed, as was wrought-iron work and chandeliers foreign to the architecture of the house. Bathrooms were tiled, rather than being block-walled (and ceilinged). Wright apparently designed no furniture for the Ennises (other than some unexecuted wall lamps).

30 years later, Wright commented that the house was too big, "way out of concrete block size. . .out of bounds." But, with the unauthorized changes that were made during construction, he may have been less than enthusiastic about his last Los Angeles block house.

What was most significant, and unique, about the house, survives: a particularly strong evocation of Mayan monumentality, and a ceremonial quality to the interior, which is centered on its large, raised dining room, with its own fireplace and major view of the city. The entire sequence of arrival, a winding road from below to the massive gate, into a motor court like an "outdoor room" surounded by a low wall and with an impressive view, then through the entrance into a typically-Wrightian low and dark hall, finally up some stairs and into the light and space of the high-ceilinged dining room and smaller, lower living room, both served by a collonaded loggia which contains the living room fireplace. The house has "the most abstract spaces of any block house," according to Mr Sweeney, and "the Ennises seem to have understood the religious iconography of their house, turning to Mayan sources for decorative inspiration. Ceremony using fire plays a role in almost every religion; the Ennises acknowledged this in commissioning the bronze hood for the fireplace, which depicts Xiuheuctli, the ancient Mayan god of fire."

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Postby SDR » Thu Jan 20, 2005 5:54 pm

David -- Can you tell us where, specifically, is shoring needed?

I am looking for coverage I have seen, about the major structural intervention that was undertaken at Fallingwater a couple of years ago -- it was quite an interesting technical feat, and saved this priceless treasure from an "early retirement."

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Postby nichols » Mon Jan 24, 2005 11:12 am

A neat way to contribute to the well being of the Ennis-Brown house is through their "Adopt-a-block" program:

http://www.ennisbrownhouse.org/adopt-a- ... block.html

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Postby Vavala » Tue Mar 01, 2005 11:53 am

Los Angeles Times
March 1, 2005

Warning: Hills Can Slide, Even on the Sunniest Days

· A Wright landmark and other homes are red-tagged. Key route is closed. More trouble is likely.

By Amanda Covarrubias, Times Staff Writer

A hill collapse closed Laurel Canyon Boulevard and ground instability prompted the city to red-tag Frank Lloyd Wright's landmark Ennis-Brown House as mudslides continued to trigger evacuations Monday despite five days of dry weather.

Geologists said the mudslide danger could last for several months, even if little more rain falls. Water that has saturated hillsides this winter is sinking deeper into the ground, creating the potential for soil shifts that could trigger more collapses.

They pointed out that the 1995 mudslide in the La Conchita community in Ventura County that destroyed several homes occurred two months after the rains had stopped.

"The sun is shining, but the rain is busily percolating downward," said Randy Jibson, a geological consultant for the U.S. Geological Survey.

"You can't see it, but it's busy. I expect that in the next few months, we will see a spectrum of landslides — deeper, slow-moving landslides — throughout the region. They don't kill people, but they cause enormous property damage. You can sit there and listen to a house creaking and groaning, and you're helpless," he said.

Southern California has been battered by a series of heavy rainstorms that dumped more than 33.8 inches of rain so far this season, making it one of the wettest on record. Some meteorologists expect the 2004-05 season to eventually top the wettest on record, 1883-84, when 38.18 inches fell.

Officials on Monday were trying to determine the extent of the damage to the Wright creation, a massive concrete compound perched in the hills of Los Feliz just below the Griffith Observatory.

The house has had structural problems in the past, and there were signs Monday that portions of the massive Maya-inspired retaining wall were weakened by the rains. Several other homes in the area also have been red-tagged.

Los Angeles building inspectors determined the Ennis-Brown House was uninhabitable Saturday when they discovered that part of the wall behind the house was crumbling, said Bob Steinbach, a spokesman for the city's Department of Building and Safety.

Inspectors estimated that rain and mud have caused at least $500,000 damage to the house so far, he said.

The problems come as the Trust for Preservation of Cultural Heritage, a nonprofit, was embarking on a major effort to restore the compound, which has been deteriorating because of age as well as several nature diasters, including the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

The nearly 10,000-square-foot home is made of more than 24,000 patterned, perforated and smooth concrete blocks that contain decomposed granite extracted from the site.

A few miles to the west, a hill gave way at the entrance to Laurel Canyon Boulevard near Mount Olympus Drive, causing the city to close a key route between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside and to evacuate several houses along Laurel Canyon Boulevard. Commuters had to find other routes through the Hollywood Hills.

Officials said three houses were red-tagged, meaning no one was allowed in, and three were yellowed-tagged, meaning residents had only limited access.

As of Monday, more than 80 residences had been red-tagged in Los Angeles alone. Several other hillside communities have also reported severe damage to residences, including Culver City, Pasadena, Glendale, Anaheim and Laguna Beach.

Four houses in the Phillips Ranch section of Pomona were red-tagged last week after the slope below them began to give way and the structures started crumbling.

In Diamond Bar, a hillside slid a quarter-mile, carrying trees and debris into the backyards of neighboring houses. City officials said many of them were built before the city incorporated in 1989, before more stringent standards were in place.

Mudslides are caused by oversaturated ground that is absorbing water deeper and deeper, creating a powerful force beneath the surface that can carry cars, houses and people away.

Geologists expect to see this pattern continue at least through May.

"Failures can happen months after rains because of the permeability and the slope and other related things," said Doug Morton, a retired geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey.

The passage of time after a rainstorm reduces the chances that a slide will occur, Jibson said, but if one does happen, it is likely to be relatively large.

"The deeper the water has infiltrated the ground, the deeper the slides," he said. "But it's been longer, so it's less likely it will happen."

Generally, 10 inches of rain marks the point at which mudslides start occurring in Southern California, Jibson said. Because rain started to fall earlier than usual this season — October instead of November — water absorption was accelerated.

"We're not out of the woods yet in La Conchita and similar places," Jibson said, referring to the community where a massive mudslide in January killed 10 people. "We could very well in the next few weeks or months see deeper landslides in other parts of the neighborhood."

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Postby SDR » Wed Mar 02, 2005 11:23 am

Really good idea, Kevin! Hope this will be taken to heart by some who could make a difference -- perhaps others will be able to report of successful efforts along these lines, elsewhere. . .?

I'm hoping I am correct in believing that the long-standing and worsening (?) troubles with the "retaining wall" at the Ennis-Brown House are essentially cosmetic, and do not affect the structural integrity of the house above. This is based on my understanding that the structure of that wall consists of the row of canted concrete piers ("crib-walls") mentioned in the post above, to which the textile-block "tiles" were applied. It was the subsequent (perhaps unnecessary?) back-filling behind this surface which began settling and disturbing those tiles, six months after the beginning of construction (according to Sweeney).

If this is so, as long as the crib-walls are not moving, the problem is one of correcting the back-fill issue and replacing broken or missing face tiles.

Can anyone confirm or correct this understanding of the affair?

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Postby bananabobs » Wed Mar 02, 2005 2:57 pm


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Postby davidk6 » Wed Mar 02, 2005 3:26 pm

Marxist Philosophy: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend; inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

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Postby bananabobs » Wed Mar 02, 2005 8:48 pm

I had to wipe away a tear before I responded, I am all about factory built housing, it is right for so many reasons! I found this company an am looking to place one on a property I own in Ohio this year.

Fixed the link, sorry!
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Postby Futura Girl » Thu Mar 03, 2005 3:40 am

The house was featured on NPR today:
read the story here...

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/stor ... Id=4520645

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I think there might

Postby modfan » Thu Mar 03, 2005 7:57 am

be a misconception.

A lot of stories on this mention that the house was used in Blade Runner-
as Decker's apartment. But I recall reading on another website about the movie that it was all constructed on a stage set and they didn't film there although the 'theme' decoration of the apartment would suggest Wright's textile block houses.

Hey lurking rich folks ya gotta have $12 million around to save this-Paris Hilton do something constructive with your wealth for once!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Postby SDR » Thu Mar 03, 2005 10:49 am

[I've had the same question about the (apparent) use of interiors at the Gamble House, in the first "Back To The Future" movie. My jaw dropped when I saw what appeared to be the garage interior in use as the doctor's (?) office/lab. . .never read anything about it, one way or the other. . .did they only use the exterior, and recreate in the studio? Anybody know?]

I'm hoping someone can answer the question posed above about actual structural damage at the Ennis-Brown House. Or is it too soon to know?

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