The Ennis House is a building located in the Los Feliz neighbourhood of Los Angeles, California, USA, south of Griffith Park. It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for Charles and Mabel Ennis in 1923, and built in 1924.
Following ‘La Miniatura’ (Pasadena) and the Storer and Freeman House (Hollywood Hills), the building is the fourth and largest of Wright’s textile block designs, constructed primarily of interlocking pre-cast concrete blocks, in northern Los Angeles.
The design was based on ancient Mayan temples and along with other buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright, such as the A. D. German Warehouse in Wisconsin and Hollyhock House in Hollywood, the Ennis House is sometimes referred to as an example of the Mayan Revival style. Its prominent detail is the relief ornamentation on its textile blocks, inspired by the symmetrical reliefs of Mayan buildings in Uxmal.
The Ennis House has been designated as a city, state, and national landmark.
The house consists of two buildings, the main house and a smaller chauffeur’s apartment/garage, separated by a paved courtyard. Unlike the vertical orientation of the other three block houses, the Ennis House has a long horizontal loggia spine on the northern side connecting public and private rooms to the south, and is very large at 10,000 square feet. The kitchen, pantry, guestroom, dining room, living room, master bathroom and bedroom, upper terrace, second bathroom and bedroom are at the eastern and lower end of the main building.
In 1940 Wright, adding a pool on the north terrace, a billiard room on the ground floor, and a heating system, sold the house to media personality John Nesbitt who had it altered.
Although originally and currently known as the Ennis House, the building was long known as the Ennis-Brown House. This became its name in 1980 when Augustus O. Brown, the eighth owner from 1968–1980, renamed it in appreciation of its donation to the Trust for Preservation of Cultural Heritage. In August 2005, the house was returned to its original name and the Trust for Preservation of Cultural Heritage was renamed the Ennis House Foundation.
Restoration: Even before its completion the Ennis House was marked by structural instability. Concrete blocks had cracked and lower sections of the walls buckled under tension. The use of decomposed granite from the site to colour the textile blocks introduced natural impurities to the concrete mix, and combined with air pollution caused premature decay. Attempts to apply a protective coating caused additional problems.
More damage occurred due to the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and the record rainfall during the 2004-2005 rainy season. The Ennis House Foundation had estimated that it could cost $5 million just for stabilisation costs, and $15 million for full restoration. After the rains the building was briefly red-tagged(no entry) but was down graded to yellow-tagged (limited entry) by late 2005. At that point significant damage to the retaining wall at the southern rear of the building remained. In 2005 the house was added to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of the ‘11 Most Endangered Historic Places’.
In 2006 a FEMA grant was issued, as well as a $4.5 million construction loan through First Republic Bank, which restarted restoration efforts. The project included a new structural support system, restoration or replacement of damaged blocks, restoration of windows, and a new roof. Restoration work was completed in 2007 at a cost of nearly $6.4 million. The public made no announcement regarding access and the Ennis House remains closed to public visitors.
As costs escalated difficulties developed during construction, supervised by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, Lloyd Wright. The owners took over after the superstructure reached the windows and carried out various changes, deviating from Wright’s original design.
The building is now used for films, commercials, music videos and fashion magazine shoots.