happy (early) halloween!
On today's claass HAUS HALLOWEEN edition- Lloyd Wright's mysterious (and spooky!) Sowden House.
Sure, Lloyd Wright's Sowden House has a pretty sinister backstory, one that's just scary enough for Halloween (it involves the Black Dahlia murder, read it if you must). But in case you just want a few iconic Marvin Rand photographs of everyone's favorite neo-Mayan party palace, claass HAUS has you covered.
Designed in 1926 by Lloyd Wright for his friends, John (a retired artist) and Ruth Sowden, the Sowden House remains one of Los Angeles' most enigmatic domestic landmarks. Looming over Franklin Avenue, the dramatic Mayan Revival fortress with its stylized sand-colored blocks, stepped pyramid form, and dramatic central entrance (often likened to concrete jaws) is unapologetically exotic, a dynamic showpiece for lavish entertaining during Hollywood's golden age. Clearly influenced by his father's (yes, Frank Lloyd Wright) textile-block construction process, Wright designed the house as a theatrical set piece, its sculptural cave-like entrance leading into a lush colonnaded courtyard used for open-air performances and lavish gatherings. On the interior, the rectangular plan is composed of four wings, each one communicating with the central courtyard. With its bold physicality and brooding stage-set appearance, the Sowden House is a distinctive modern icon, an exotic experiment meant to evoke mystery and suspense.
After undergoing an extensive renovation in the early 2000s, the National Register-listed Sowden House remains L.A.'s most infamous residence, its original pyramid facade still peering ominously over its Los Feliz location. You can see recent photos of the house here. Happy Halloween!
All photographs are part of the Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress, available here.
Historic American Buildings Survey, Lloyd Wright and W.W. Moore. Sowden House, 5121 Franklin Avenue, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, ca0267.
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