The possible sale of Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House has sparked some indignation amongst preservation-minded posters on the boards at Lotta Living. It seems previous contributors feel betrayed by the Ennis Foundation's decision to put the structurally-challenged house on the market for $15 million: "Yup, frankly, I'm disgusted by the sale of this property from the public sector back to the private-sector. We are not just talking a typical historic building here. Millions of dollars of public funds went into the previous repair of this property, and it was NEVER MENTIONED that the building could go back to a private owner. Like many, I donated money to the Trust for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage way back and the Ennis House Foundation during a more-recent fund-raising drive -- in addition to tax-dollars I paid -- all because I considered this one of the most important properties in L.A., and I certainly would have NEVER done that had I known the property would be closed again to the public, which barely had time to visit the property during the short time it was open between repair campaigns. Of course I'm happy I helped pay, in my small but painful way, for the building to be stabilized ---- but so that some wealthy bastard could enjoy it...??!!
What's next -- should we start selling parks and National Landmarks --- that the public repairs first --- to the rich because we cannot afford them? Whoops, I forgot -- Southern California has already done that kind of thing over and over again this past century, and is in the process of trying to steamroll a private highway though the State Park at Trestles/San Onofre. What a bad example to set for students, who in Southern California rarely get to really immerse themselves in really GREAT architecture (or truly great art). And in a place that has the wealthiest "upper-middle"-class in the entire country!
I certainly hope there is one hell of a restrictive covenant attached to this property that requires complete and proper restoration as well as a minimum of 15 days per year public access for tours. Otherwise, all of the very-wealthy individuals who are making this decision will be once again limiting and segregating the educational opportunities of all of the working people whom they love to have around to perform their cheap-labor but hate to provide a quality education to."
We checked with the LA Conservancy's director of communications Cindy Olnick to see what's being done to address these concerns. She responded:" The Ennis House Foundation Board wants the new owner of the house to open it to the public on a limited basis. They'll discuss it during the sale process with prospective buyers. They also anticipate amending the existing conservation easement to ensure access to the house into the future." Additionally, she emails: "I know the Foundation spent all the money donated on its intended purpose, if that's a concern." So donors need not fret, your contribution did indeed go towards the restablization work already done.
· Ennis-Brown House in Trouble [Lotta Living]