Friday, October 31, 2008

Inside the House on Haunted Hill

Through a bit of luck, I managed to get access to Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Ennis House in the Hollywood Hills, which has been closed to the public for some time. Talk about a perfect Halloween present! Movie lovers may recognize this architectural masterpiece as the House on Haunted Hill (from William Castle’s 1958 shocker with Vincent Price), or as Harrison Ford’s apartment in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Steve Martin’s house in Grand Canyon, or Angel’s hideaway in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Certainly, this is the kind of setting that sticks in one’s mind. Even if it hadn’t been featured in countless films, TV shows and commercials, the Ennis House would still be instantly recognizable – where else can you see a modern-day Mayan temple juxtaposed with some of the biggest skyscrapers in the world?

A little history: The 1924 home of Charles & Mabel Ennis is one of four concrete block houses in L.A. that were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Each of these houses appears to rise from the land, an organic extension of the mountainous landscape. The four corners narrow slightly at the top, adding to the illusion of ascent. The Ennis House also features quite a bit of “art glass,” including an original mosaic over the fireplace. According to our tour guide, the house was built as more as a showpiece than as actual living quarters. Over the years, some pretty wild parties have been held here – though nothing quite on par with Vincent Price's birthday bash.

These days, the Ennis house is more peaceful, having fallen into the custodial care of a foundation dedicated to preserving it for (in Frank Lloyd Wright’s own words) “lovers of the beautiful.” It is truly one of the most breathtaking sights in Los Angeles, and deserves to be saved for future generations to see.


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