'The Master' Joins Fire Sale

Stung by justice, USC puts FLWright's 'textile block' Freeman House on market
Fridays on the Homefront
For the Freeman House (above), architect Frank Lloyd Wright chose a Mayan-inspired, 'textile block' look, which was also used for three of his other Los Angeles houses in the 1920s. Today, in the midst of controversy past and present, the historic home is now on the market by its University of Southern California owners for $4.25M. Photos: By and courtesy Dan Soderberg (from 1972 - with permission from Harriet Freeman)

Often when an historic building changes hands, the prospect of careless stewardship and inauthentic changes worries both casual and avid preservationists.

In the case of Frank Lloyd Wright's Freeman House, which hit the Los Angeles home market this month, those same folks may be relieved that the premier school of mid-century modern architecture, University of Southern California, is making the house part of its 2021 fire sale.

"It needs a lot of restoration," concedes Mike Deasy, broker/co-owner of Deasy Penner Podley, which listed the Freeman House at 1962 Glencoe Way for $4.25 million. Deasy said last week that he has shown the 1924 home to numerous qualified buyers already, attributing the asking price for the house to "an incredible amount of things that make it important."

"The structural work has been done by the current owner," Deasy said, referring to the $1.5 million of restoration efforts undertaken this century by USC after the house was bequeathed it in 1984 by then-owner Harriet Freeman. He added briefly, "The blocks need recladding."

Fridays on the Homefront

Wright chose a Mayan-inspired, 'textile block' structure for four of the five houses he designed in mid-1920s Los Angeles. Typically his son, architect Lloyd Wright, supervised construction, including for this Hollywood Hills home for jeweler Samuel Freeman and his wife, Harriet, who lived there together the next six decades.

The university shored up the building after damage from the 1994 Northridge earthquake, but it was never opened to the public; and preservation efforts slowed after the 2005 death of Robert Timme, Dean of the USC School of Architecture.

Then, the Los Angeles Times discovered in 2019 that at least three furnishings—two Wright-designed floor lamps and a chair by architect Rudolph Schindler—were stolen from off-site storage some time after 2012. Two blocks, conspicuously missing from the home's entrance, are also gone, with one reportedly fetching $5,000 in a 2018 auction.

The USC School of Architecture produced such modernist luminaries as A. Quincy Jones, Pierre Koenig, Paul Williams, and Rafael Soriano. Consequently, the university inherited properties, including the Freeman House, and the legendary Gamble House (by architects Greene & Greene, 1909) in Pasadena, but apparently have taken much better care of the latter.

Fridays on the Homefront
Living room.

The university recently agreed to $1.1 billion in settlements for sexual abuse of former patients of its student health center. According to reports, this likely prompted the sale this month of its Colonial-style presidential mansion in San Marino, the Seeley-Mudd Estate (1934), for $25 million.