Businessman buys Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House

Billionaire Ron Burkle has snapped up Frank Lloyd Wright's landmark Ennis House at the relative bargain price of about $4.5 million, the building's sellers announced Friday.

Billionaire Ron Burkle has snapped up Frank Lloyd Wright's landmark Ennis House at the relative bargain price of about $4.5 million, the building's sellers announced Friday.

Ennis House Foundation chairwoman Marla Felber said Burkle, a supermarket tycoon, would continue rehabilitating the 1924 concrete block home, on which the foundation had already spent $6.5 million for repairs.

"Mr. Burkle has a track record of preserving important historic homes, and we know he'll be an excellent steward of the Ennis House," Felber said in a release announcing the sale of the structure, the last and largest of four homes Wright designed in an experimental "textile block" style.

Inspired by Mayan ruins in Uxmal, Mexico, the 6,000-square-foot estate is built from 27,000 blocks featuring 24 design variations and has breathtaking views of the Hollywood Hills. It has been featured in several movies, including "Blade Runner," ''House on Haunted Hill" and "Grand Canyon."

The house, which sits on a hilltop in the Los Feliz neighborhood north of downtown, had been severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake and torrential rains caused the retaining wall to buckle in March 2005, sending several of the building's patterned blocks down the hill.

The house was completed for men's clothing store owners Charles and Mabel Ennis. Sold in 1936, it has changed hands several times and has seen various alterations, including the addition of a lap pool on its north terrace.

In June 1968, Augustus O. Brown, the last private owner, bought the estate for $119,000 and made extensive repairs. He donated the property in 1980 to the group that would become the Ennis House Foundation.

The group listed the home for sale at $15 million about two years ago after deciding that private ownership was the best way to assure the structure's preservation. It later lowered the list price to $5.9 million.

The foundation estimated when the home was first listed for sale that it would need up to $7 million in additional renovations to return it to its original state.

As part of his purchase agreement, Burkle is obliged to offer some form of public access to the building a minimum of 12 days per year, Felber said. The requirement applies to future owners of the home as well.

A message left with Burkle's Yucaipa Companies LLC seeking details about the businessman's plans for the home was not returned. Felber said the foundation expects him to use it for fundraising and other events.

Burkle is also the owner of the so-called Greenacres estate in the Benedict Canyon section of Beverly Hills, which he bought in 1993. The estate, like the Ennis House, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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