The University of Southern California (USC) has sold a historic residence built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1924 to a Los Angeles real estate developer, in a private deal that will see the fragile site permanently restored. The home was purchased by Richard E. Weintraub, president and CEO of the Weintraub Real Estate Group, the Los Angeles Times first reported.
The 2,800-square-foot building located in Hollywood Hills is one of Wright’s several textile block constructions, made with walls constructed of 12,000 cast concrete blocks that have perforated sides. The structure was erected during the ’80s and once served as a hub for Los Angeles–area creatives. Its original owners, Samuel and Harriet Freeman, donated the residence to the university’s architecture school in 1986.
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Since the early 2000s, the Freeman house been the subject of concern among architecture preservationists because of its deteriorating conditions following damage from a 1994 earthquake. By 2005, a FEMA grant and USC fundraising had paid for repairs to the building’s weakening facade and other structural elements. But the three-part restoration project stalled out when the school’s administration changed. In 2019, new concerns over USC’s ownership of the house arose when it was revealed that the university had failed to disclose the theft of several items of designer furniture from the Wright home.
Weintraub purchased the modernist dwelling for $1.8 million, a fraction of the $4.25 million price for which it was listed when USC put it up for sale on the open market in July. Before securing the deal with Weintraub, the school scaled the price down further, to $3.25 million, due to its extensive rehabilitation needs.
As part of the conditions for the private sale with Weintraub, the Los Angeles Conservancy has placed a conservation easement on the historic site, prohibiting Weintraub or any future buyer from tearing it down or making expansive additions. The agreement stipulated that educational programs will give public access to the home four times a year.
The Freeman house is not the only Wright-designed site in Los Angeles to have faced endangerment. The Hollywood Hills Ennis-Brown house, the last and the largest of Wright’s series of four textile block buildings, was damaged in a storm in 2005. Work to stabilize the Mayan Revival–style house began in 2006, and it was eventually restored in full by a private owner after being purchased 2011.