Tuesday, May 7, 2019

So, Long, Frank Lloyd Wright… Jr.

On the corner of Springdale and Warner in Huntington Beach sits a worn grave marker. 

Nothing too unusual about that.  Orange County has its fill of cemeteries with stone markers. But this one is unique.  It isn’t in a cemetery.  In fact, it sits behind an Arco gas station.

No, it isn’t for the former gas station owner. Or even the owner of the strip mall that sits behind it. And while Google Earth doesn’t drive through every shopping center to capture details, the Google cam car evidently got tipped off to take a special spin past the back of the gas station and get a picture of the marker. There on an otherwise unnecessary little patch of dirt behind the waste disposal cage sits a simple stone tablet dedicated to a bad idea that died on the site.

Everyone knows Frank Lloyd Wright.  Famous architect, writer and educator responsible for over 1000 groundbreaking structures… though if you think about it, every structure has a groundbreaking.   Wright also was a father to seven children, including his namesake, Frank Lloyd Wright Jr.

Lloyd Wright was also an architect, and created many fine structures in Southern California, including the Hollywood Bowl, and Wayfarer’s Chapel, a glass gem in Palos Verdes, and many residential projects that remain today.

But one project faltered, and that brings us to our humble little Arco station in Huntington Beach.  Lloyd Wright took on the design of the Westfield Shopping Center for developer Stanley Fann, which included plans for a 94’ tower to mark the center as a tribute to Huntington Beach’s oil industry.  As you can see in the rendering, above, it was a doozy.

It seems the locals weren’t very keen on the idea of living in the shadow of a towering eyesore. So they rallied together creating a petition to vote the thing out of the plans.  The will of the people prevailed, and Lloyd Wright was run out of town.  It was to be his final work.

Just to pour salt on the wound, Fann erected the marker to commemorate the event. It reads
“In recognition of Lloyd Wright’s 94 foot high sign tower that was to be erected on this spot. It’s defeat is symbolic of the democratic process in which we live. The people did not wish this sign tower to be erected as they felt it was not needed and would blight their community. Their wishes were heard and adhered to by the developer Stanley Fann. 1970”

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