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In that photo, what could be the function of the twin towers we see atop the house ?
The exterior wythe of blocks at Freeman is literally dissolving in the weather. I suspect the solution to preserving the house is to build an enclosure over and around the house, remove the exterior wythe of blocks, and replace them with newly cast block that is less porous, but with the original’s color and texture....easy peasy!.....he says with a note of sarcasm.
This is great house that needs help, but the cost to solve its problems is beyond the means and wherewithal of its current owner. A benevolent corporate donation or billionaire? Anyone, anyone?
(p 39) ". . . Byron Vandergrift, who occasionally worked for Lloyd Wright as a laborer and draftsman, made some of the [Freeman] blocks and tiles on site. He later recalled that: 'I used to have to carry cement and sand from where they'd dump it on the street [and] then mix it by hand . . . They had a small sledge hammer . . . and we put a two-by-four block on the sixteen-inch-square thing and pounded it down . . . [Lloyd] showed me how much stronger the blocks got if you watered them a couple of times a day for three weeks.' "
(It is interesting, in that light, to learn, on page 44, that for the Barnsdall kindergarten or Playhouse over 7500 precast tiles were produced---and 226 of them installed---before construction was halted---eleven days after it had commenced !)
Johnson discusses the prevailing modes of precast concrete work at that period, distinguishing between the use of a wetter "slurry" and a dryer mix of concrete in making molded parts. He also goes into the equipment available at the time, including various devices for compressing the material after it had been placed in a mold.
(P 47) "Between 1904 and 1910 in the United States alone there was an annual average of thirty-four patents pending for concrete blocks, their chemical composition, or mold apparatuses for producing them. In 1912 you could purchase clinkers of incinerated garbage to use as an aggregate to mix with Portland cement . . . As well, there were compaction machines that Wright or son could have used or modified. Instead they relied on hand tamping a rather dry slurry with a block of wood and a mallet."
The lack of rain in Southern California has helped prevent Freeman from dissolving entirely. But as we all know:
"It never rains in California, but girl don't they warn ya / It pours, man it pours."
The massive rains of '95 did considerable damage to both Freeman and Ennis. At one point, Freeman was covered entirely by a large, boxy frame and canvas. I don't know what was going on underneath, but it emerged no better than it had been. USC should look for a buyer who could afford to reconstruct the house and save it. The university has been a neglectful steward. DD Martin was in a similarly desperate state when SUNY Buffalo was the steward, and it remained problematic until the restoration effort finally took over. We need a similar effort here.