Los Angeles police said Tuesday they are seeking the public’s help in solving a yearslong mystery involving highly valuable furniture that vanished from a storage facility managed by USC.
The four rare items — two floor lamps, a folding chair and a tea cart — were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolph Schindler, two of the last century’s foremost American architects, for a home Wright built in the Hollywood Hills, LAPD said in a news release.
Known as the Freeman House, the residence at 1962 Glencoe Way was built for philosopher Samuel Freeman and his wife, Harriet, in 1924, according to the architect’s foundation.
One of Wright’s textile block houses, the building cascades three stories down a hillside with large windows, balconies and terraces to take advantage of expansive views down Highland Avenue.
The home was donated to USC’s School of Architecture in 1986, and the university has been in charge of its maintenance ever since.
When the Northridge earthquake hit in 1994, the residence suffered significant damage. Furniture was removed and locked up in a USC storage facility, LAPD said.
But the four irreplaceable items disappeared in 2012, sometime between July 5 and Sept. 17. There were no signs of forced entry, investigators said.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the thieves appeared to know exactly what they were looking for in USC’s unmarked warehouse on 24th Street in South L.A.
Perhaps even more puzzling, the newspaper said high-profile theft was never reported to police until this year, after someone sent an anonymous letter about the crime to the L.A. Times.
Kenneth Breisch, who oversaw USC’s graduate program in historic preservation, told the Times that he only knows of one key to the storage room, and it’s maintained by the facilities department.
The two lamps, each more than 6 feet tall, are made of plated cast iron, brass and glass. One may have a glass pane that was missing or replaced. A similar piece made by Wright around the same time sold for $100,000 at an auction two years ago, the Times reported.
The home, where the Freemans hosted salons with other avant-garde thinkers of the time for better part of the 20th century, remains in a state of disrepair. It was stabilized in 2005, but the university hasn’t been able to come up with funding for additional renovations it requires.
The building is included in the National Register of Historic Places, but is not currently open to the public.
Anyone with information on the missing furniture can contact LAPD’s Art Theft Detail at 213-486-6940, or contact 877-527-3247 after business hours. Anonymous tips may be submitted via 800-222-8477 or LACrimeStoppers.org.