Historic Furnishings Heisted

University that stored Frank Lloyd Wright valuables failed to report theft since 2012
Fridays on the Homefront
Two lamps fashioned by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Freeman House (interior pictured here) of Los Angeles, along with a chair by fellow master Rudolph
Schindler, were stolen from storage in 2012, unreported for six years, and are still missing. All photos (except the Storer House) by Julius Shulman (© J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles - 2004.R.10)
Fridays on the Homefront
Freeman House exterior.
Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront
Frank Lloyd Wright.

Admirers of Frank Lloyd Wright were saddened this month by the news that two lamps fashioned by the master for one of his four historic 'textile block' homes in Los Angeles—along with a chair by fellow great Rudolph Schindler—were apparently stolen from storage in 2012, unreported for six years, and are still missing.

The furnishings are from the Freeman House (1923) in the Hollywood Hills, the second of Wright's four block houses, which was deeded to the University of Southern California (USC) School of Architecture when owners Samuel and Harriet Freeman died in the 1980s.

When the home sustained major damage in the Northridge Earthquake of 1994, the furniture was put into storage inside a former L.A. Water and Power station rented as a warehouse for the university.

The theft was not made known for six years, until an exterior tile from the house was sold for $5,000 last summer at an auction in Chicago, apparently prompting an anonymous letter to the Los Angeles Times, which broke the story February 3.

"The house is used regularly by students in the heritage conservation program as well as by other [School of] Architecture students, but is currently not open to the public," according to a statement issued by the university. It concludes, "The university is reviewing its procedures and security measures related to the Freeman House and its assets."

"It's certainly unfortunate, to say the least," said John Waters, contacted last week at the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in Chicago, where he is manager of preservation programs. Expressing additional concern over the condition of the house, regarding the theft Waters stated, "Our main concern is that a thorough investigation is done, as is everyone's."

The university does not dispute details of the Times story, which said school staff noticed the theft in 2012, but it went unreported due to internal miscommunication.

"Therefore," continues the first of two statements about the house issued this month by the school, "the Department of Public Safety compiled a report last week and referred the matter to the Los Angeles Police Department."

The Times reported that the Wright lamps "are particularly rare" and that a similar one sold at auction two years ago for $100,000, while an expert pegged the value of the Schindler chairs at $25,000.

"The Freeman House is a concern. It's definitely something we monitor," said Waters. "Our hope would be that the house [is] restored and all the items intended for it are returned to it. To that extent, this is particularly unfortunate from our perspective."