By Wendy Bowman

The University of Southern California is apparently cleaning house, in more ways than one. The academic institution’s longtime presidential mansion in the San Gabriel Valley city of San Marino just sold to billionaire Tianqiao Chen for $25 million in cash; now the powers that be are hoping to find a future caretaker willing to shell out $4.25 million for the Freeman House, one of only four iconic textile-block residences in Los Angeles designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Commissioned by Samuel and Harriet Freeman in 1923, and completed in 1925 at a total cost of $23,000 — $13,000 over the original estimate! — the exotic Mayan Revival-inspired dwelling was used to host the couple’s avant-garde artistic and political “salon” for nearly 60 years, with prominent visitors and resident guests ranging from Martha Graham and Richard Neutra, to Xavier Cugat and Clark Gable. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, the structure was later donated to USC by the Freeman family in 1984 to serve as a living lab for architectural students to study design and historic preservation.

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