Thousands turn out for 24-hour reopening of Hollyhock House

Thousands turn out for 24-hour reopening of Hollyhock House
Tod Mesirow and other members of the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation gather during a rare 24-hour opening of the Hollyhock House on Feb. 13. (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

Some people brought picnics. Others furtively passed around flasks. Couples snuggled under big blankets as they stood for hours, waiting their turn.

In the middle of the night, as Friday the 13th turned into Valentine's Day, as many as a thousand people at a time lined up on a Hollywood hillside for a chance to get inside the newly restored Hollyhock House, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.


For some, it took as long as 3-1/2 hours to make it to the front of the line, where they put on paper booties to tour the National Historic Landmark, built between 1919 and 1921, which has been closed to the public since 2010.

For 24 hours straight, starting 4 p.m. on Friday, visitors were welcomed for free at the home built for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall. They could show up anytime they liked to take a self-guided tour, and they were free to take photos inside -- which won't be allowed ordinarily.

Even Hollyhock House's staff, who had been planning the event for months, were overwhelmed by the crowds that turned up. They had hoped to keep track of the number of visitors, but before long they found they just couldn't do it.

Hollyhock House's curator Jeffrey Herr arrived at the house at 10 a.m. on Friday. He was still there in his suit and tie, warmly greeting visitors, after 7 a.m. on Saturday.

Jennifer Wong, 31, an architectural designer, drove from Laguna Beach to be there.

"It's like when are you ever going to see it at night? You get to see it as if you lived there," said the architectural designer, who commemorated the night with Polaroid shots of herself and her boyfriend, David Chilin, inside the house.

Many people in line said they felt proud of their city for showing up in such a big way for an artistic and cultural event.

"To have this happening at 3 in the morning in a city that everyone says is vacuous and doesn't have any culture, it's amazing to me," said Michael Thomas of Los Feliz. "It's the most cultured city I've ever lived in."

After Saturday, Hollyhock House, which is owned and operated by the city, will be open for self-guided tours on a regular schedule, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

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