Located atop Olive Hill, this quaint park offers sweeping vistas of the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory, and is home to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House. It was the brainchild of the brilliant heiress Aline Barnsdall, whose dream of an artistic commune in the midst of Los Angeles was never fully realized.
Barnsdall was a woman with a vision. Her daughter called her a “female Don Quixote, always jousting at windmills.” In 1919, she bought 36-acres on Olive Hill, in the lovely hamlet of Los Feliz. She hired her friend, the equally tempestuous Frank Lloyd Wright, to help her design a theatrical and artistic community that would champion avant-garde art. The main house, called Hollyhock House, was built in a Mayan/Japanese style that Wright called “California Romanza.” Other buildings were built under the supervision of Frank’s son Lloyd. Aline soon lost interest in the project and gave up her art commune dream. She eventually donated the land to the city of Los Angeles.
Today, the Barnsdall Art Park features the LA Municipal Art Gallery, a community art center, a theater, and the beautifully restored Hollyhock House. Upon entering the house, visitors are transported to Los Angeles in the early 1920s. The Hollyhock House was an experiment at the forefront of California modernism, a style that defines the architectural history of Los Angeles. At the time, Wright had started to employ the Japanese concept of dissolving barriers between the indoors and outdoors. As a result, visitors seamlessly transition between outdoor terraces and ornate interiors. Shockingly, the elegant and revolutionary home visitors encounter today was a total disappointment to Aline. She complained that the rooms were too small, the roof too leaky and the doors too heavy to open.
Today, the park is buzzing with activity. Couples lounge on blankets on the lawn, children work with clay in an art room, and curators discuss the latest exhibition at the Municipal Art Gallery. Aline’s original dream of an artistic utopia has in many ways become a reality.
Know Before You Go
On Sundays, there are free family art workshops held in the park. On Fridays, the park hosts wine tastings on the lawn.