HOUSE PORN: The Fathers and Sons of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Black Dahlia Killer.

This is the story of two fathers, two sons, two murders, and a Mayan temple just east of Hollywood.

In 1947 a woman by the name of Elizabeth Short was brutally murdered in Los Angeles. As an unsolved murder during the heyday of Film Noir and crime novels, the story evolved to be known as the case of the “Black Dahlia.” The black tailored suit Short was last seen wearing became "a tight skirt and a sheer blouse" and Short evolved to be called the "Black Dahlia"—an "adventuress" who "prowled Hollywood Boulevard” according to the tabloid press.

While the case is still officially “unsolved,” it is often reported that a Los Angeles doctor by the name of George Hill Hodel was Short’s spurned lover and her killer. The doctor’s son, Steve Hodel is one of this theory’s biggest advocates. The son, a former police detective, theorizes that his father killed Short at his home Los Feliz, and dumped the body in a vacant lot in another part of town. The story has become Hollywood legend, and the subject of books and film.

And now, 66 years later, a dog trained in detecting the smell of human decomposition has discovered something on the property of the suspected killer. The son of the suspected killer hired “Buster” the crime scene sniffing Labrador to investigate the grounds of his father’s former home. The cadaver dog indicated that he found traces of human remains in the basement—which is now being tested for DNA.

And it is this basement that brings us the next set of father and son relationships. Dr. Hodel owned the famous “Sowden House” in the Los Feliz district east of Hollywood. Sowden House is known not only for its extravagant Mayan design, but for its architect—Lloyd Wright, who was the son of the famous Frank Lloyd Wright.

Of course, Frank Lloyd Wright had his own tumultuous family relationships, having left his wife and six children (including Lloyd Wright) for a scandalous relationship with a woman named Mamah Cheney. Their relationship ended tragically when Mamah and her two children, along with four other people, were murdered at Wright’s property Taliesin by one of Frank's employees, Julian Carlton. Julian set fire to Taliesin and attacked those trying to escape with an axe. 

Back at the other crime scene, soil samples have now been taken from Sowden House and sent the lab to hunt for scent of the Black Dahlia. While the samples are still at the lab, the current owners have decided to put the property up for sale—asking just under $5 million. Perhaps the dog's keen nose was enough to convince the current owner of Sowden House to move on before it becomes an official crime scene—rather than simply Hollywood legend.

Sowden House was originally built in 1926 for photographer John Sowden in 1926. The Sowdens have been described as “artsy Hollywood folks who liked to party”, and Lloyd Wright, indulged their desire for the theatrical. It was Lloyd Wright’s intention to merge architecture and landscape and deepen the relationship between drama and creativity in its design. In a design far more showy than his father’s work, Lloyd Wright was clearly trying to separate himself from his father’s shadow.

For Wright, or for Hodel, it may have been a fruitless effort to try to separate the complex nature of the father and son relationship—in design, in life, or in death.

Sources: Curbed and the San Bernadino Sun

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