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HomeLos FelizThe Fascinating History of Ennis House in Los Feliz, Los Angeles

The Fascinating History of Ennis House in Los Feliz, Los Angeles

Ennis House Edifice
The south-facing edifice of Ennis House looms above dense foliage that was cultivated for privacy, but it doesn’t deter curious visitors and freelance reporters. // Photo Credit: Rachel Presser

This article looks into Ennis House, an architecturally significant property by Frank Lloyd Wright in Los Feliz, Los Angeles.

It’s a slow-going, hilly hike or drive from the hip restaurants and gentle buzz of Los Feliz to the clandestine manses between Los Feliz Boulevard and sprawling Griffith Park. Many storied homes belonging to eras of Hollywood elite from Cecil B. DeMille to Leonardo DiCaprio can be found throughout the hills. One of the most notable is Ennis House on Glendower Avenue, which just celebrated its 100th birthday.

Even in broad daylight, the 6,200 square-foot Mayan Revival mansion elicits an ominous feeling. It was only heightened by the strong gusts that made the innumerable hockey stick-sized wind chimes behind the main gate give off a creepy lilt during the entire photo session. Although Ennis House has landmark status on the National Register of Historic Places, it is a private residence not open to the public and the area behind this gate was inaccessible.

Ennis House Gate
No entry beyond this gate. // Photo Credit: Rachel Presser

Ennis House was designed by noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1924. It was not the only Mayan Revival mansion he built in LA, preceded by the Freeman House and John Storer House in Hollywood Hills, but it holds the distinction of being the largest of the four “textile block” homes Wright designed in the city.

Inspired by Puuc architecture in the Yucatan peninsula, more than 27,000 concrete blocks span the property to form a buttressed temple-like structure. Concrete is a fact of life for modern home building, but Wright pioneered its use in residential construction. He was correct in that concrete would later be widely used in more humble, but equally innovative, types of housing like the planned community setup and mixed-use developments.

Stages of these concrete blocks create the feeling that you are outside a Mayan temple rather than your average Mission Revival manse or California Craftsman.

Ennis House Temple
Thousands of these patterned concrete blocks surround the premises and were built in stages so it resembles the tiered platforms of Mayan temples. // Photo Credit: Rachel Presser

According to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, each of the textile block homes he designed had a pattern that was specially designed for each client. The eponymous Charles Ennis, a retail mogul, belonged to the Freemasons and this factored into the Greek key design with a stylized letter G seen on all the blocks.

The concrete blocks stretch all the way down to the street level, where visitors who wander off the Griffith Park trails can get a much closer look at what they look like.

Ennis Streetlevel
The blocks almost look like a letter G if you stand far away enough, though they look like concentric squares when you’re looking up at the large edifice from the lower side of the hill. If you look at the blocks from a different angle, they almost look like the question mark blocks from the Super Mario games. // Photo Credit: Rachel Presser

Frank Lloyd Wright dedicated his career to pushing the limits of what building materials were capable of, and Ennis House was one of his most ambitious projects. Each 16” by 16” concrete block repeated the same design, but small details also stick out such as this Art Deco window.

If you look closely, the design resembles a totem pole. Totem poles are mostly associated with Pacific Northwest indigenous peoples, like the Tlingit tribe. According to an Eastern Creek researcher, totem poles are found in several areas around the world where tribes lived, including the Olmecs and the Taino. The Mayans were fond of intricately-carved stone stelae that closely resembled totem poles, which lends more authenticity to the Mayan Revival aspect other than it just being a name.

Ennis House Window
Beautiful but ominous. // Photo Credit: Rachel Presser

The captivating creepiness of Ennis House is beguiling, and this did not go unnoticed by generations of location scouts. Ennis House has been used in more than 80 movies, with Blade Runner and Rush Hour among the most notable. It’s been dubbed the “Blade Runner house” by fans and locals, outshining all of the other works filmed there.

Interior photos of Ennis House can be seen in Architectural Digest, from when they were captured from a local MLS when the property was sold in 2019. Ennis House again made history as the highest price paid for a Frank Lloyd Wright home, with a sale price of $18 million. The same concrete blocks forming the temple-like structure outdoors are also indoors, although you may be stunned to find out that this massive home only has three bedrooms.

Ennis House Los Angeles Interior 2
Photo via Architectural Digest.
Ennis House Los Angeles Interior 1
Photo via Architectural Digest.
Ennis House Panoramic
Definitely looks like it has more than three bedrooms from this panoramic view, but LA real estate has a penchant for being deceptively larger or smaller than it appears. // Photo Credit: Rachel Presser

Mansions in the hills above the city were a status symbol in Hollywood’s golden age, and remain so to this day. But few will have as storied of a legacy as Ennis House that still fascinates natives and visitors alike, with such attention to historical and cultural details.

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