LA Fridays with Bob and Tom: Hollyhock House

LA Fridays with Bob and Tom

 Week 27. Hollyhock House


This week we visit Hollyhock House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s first house in Southern California, declared this year a UNESCO World Heritage Site on July 7.  In 1919, Aline Barnsdall, a theater producer and oil heiress, commissioned Wright to design a theatrical arts complex on Olive Hill, a 36-acre site.

Entering Hollyhock House feels like you’re walking into an ancient temple, past 250-pound concrete doors into a low-ceilinged entrance hall. Wright incorporated into his design his interpretation of Barnsdall’s favorite flower, the Hollyhock.  It is incorporated into the furniture, carpets, planters, daylights and art glass windows.  Just outside, the gardens are full of Hollyhock flowers.  The house’s open floor plan offers access to the outdoors from nearly every room.  The fireplace, made of cast concrete, has a moat in front of it and was part of a larger feature where water flowed from a reflecting pool on one side of the house to the other.  The courtyard has stairs leading to rooftop terraces with views of Griffith Park, and on a clear day, to the ocean.

One important criterion the World Heritage Committee uses to determine if sites are worth considering for conscription is “Outstanding Universal Value.”  The phrase means the site is significant in terms of humanity, and that it has had an influence or an impact that is felt globally.




Robert (Bob) is a PhD physicist whose career has spanned academia, government and private industry. As a faculty member of the Department of Physics at the University of Tennessee, a Branch Chief at the United States Department of Energy and Vice President of an American International Group Company, his scientific endeavors include radiation physics, environmental research, environmental insurance and nanotechnology.

Originally from the East Coast, Bob was seduced by his sons and their families (and the California weather) to leave Washington, DC after retiring in 2010. While recovering from culture shock, Bob found many outlets to reconcile his eclectic interests. As a member of Senior Scholars for over six years he continues to take courses in a myriad of subjects ranging from film to art history to brain science and finds great intellectual and social rewards in Senior Scholars and the Plato Society.

As a latent artist, he sketches scenes about town once a week with an artist friend from his college days and is attempting to learn to play the electric guitar.

On moving to Los Angeles, he found Tom Jacobson, another recent transplant. They became great friends and decided to explore their new town together leading to over 113 sites in our city. Dubbed “LA Fridays with Bob and Tom” they are happy to share their experiences with others.

Bob lives in Brentwood with Phyllis, his wife of 56 years, an education policy executive. They have two sons and four grandchildren, one of whom plays a guitar a lot better than Bob.




Thomas (Tom) is an attorney who practiced trial and constitutional law in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Born in 1938 in Bamberg Germany, he was one of the youngest passengers on the ill-fated voyage of the Damned, the SS St. Louis, turned away from Cuba in 1939.

Tom represented local civil rights activists and Dick Gregory and twice argued cases successfully in the United States Supreme Court. In 1970 he was the Democratic candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General.

Retiring in 2008, he and wife, Peggy, moved to California to join their two sons and four grandchildren, and enjoy the warm weather.

Tom has kept busy as a member of Senior Scholars and Plato for the last six years keeping his brain stimulated and active. Yoga and swimming have kept his body in shape.