Trojan Tales

Trojan Tales: USC’s Freeman House

Somewhere up in the Hollywood Hills, a little - known house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright sits quietly, used only by USC’s architecture school. The university - owned Freeman House is a hidden architectural gem with a fascinating history.

The Freeman House in Hollywood doesn’t look like much from the street, but it’s actually a historical landmark designed by famous modernist architect Frank Llloyd Wright. The house is owned by USC, who acquired it in 1983 from Harriet Freeman, one half of the couple who commissioned Wright to build it in the 1920′s. The house once hosted the likes of old Hollywood luminaries, like Martha Graham and Clark Gable, and even been the site of a neighbor’s seance.

Ambitiously constructed, the house is Wright’s ill-fated attempt at a low-cost democratic house design for the middle class. Its inherent design flaws have been a source of constant headaches for those at the architecture school, like Ken Breisch, who has been involved in the house’s restoration process over the last three decades. Millions of dollars have been poured into the house to seismically stabilize it and maintain the facade, but efforts to restore and maintain it have stalled for years.

In fact, USC has long been under fire from historic preservationists and Wright aficionados alike for its neglect of the Freeman House. In a related incident, the L.A. Times uncovered that thieves had stolen a few of the house’s original textile blocks, which had been put into storage and replaced with facsimiles. Today, the house is closed to the public with no signs of restoration reaching completion.

Tune in to this Trojan Tale by Patricia Kelly Yeo to find out more about what makes the Freeman House one of USC’s hidden gems.