A "grave" mystery.
A "grave" mystery.
Brandon Ferguson

Mysteries of Huntington Beach: Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. and the Surf City Grave

If you've ever had a chance to fill your tank at the Arco on Warner Avenue and Springdale Street in beautiful Surf City, you might be inclined to think the owners keep a small grave yard in the back. 

Located at the rear of the service station is a small grave-like marker obscured by a cluster of bushes. The epitaph mentions a 94-foot tower, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. that was never built. It also celebrates, with apparent tongue-in-cheek sarcasm, the proud townsfolk who felt it would be a blight on the community and fought its construction. The date on the marker reads 1970 and at the bottom is the name Stanley Fann. 

 Most people looking at this marker today would probably utter a quick "WTF"  before continuing their day. But thankfully for those of us who lose sleep over unsolved mysteries, there's a fair amount of information available to answer the riddle. 

Developer Stanley Fann erected this marker after residents voted down construction of a 94-tower designed by Frank Lloyd Wright Jr.
Developer Stanley Fann erected this marker after residents voted down construction of a 94-tower designed by Frank Lloyd Wright Jr.
Brandon Ferguson

An article about the still standing strip mall, was mentioned in a June 8, 1969 issue of the Los Angeles Times. The buildings were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright Jr., son of the famed architect renown for his "organic" style. But, as it just so happens, Jr. was a talent in his own right. His fingerprint can be found on such structures as the Hollywood Bowl.

The cost of the project was estimated at $1.5 million and covered a six-acre plot with 67,000 square-feet of floor space. The mall, which bears some cool modern flourishes was known then as the West Fair Shopping Center

But what of this 90-foot tower?

As it turns out, old Jr. intended to build a stylized representation of an oil derrick in commemoration of the city's history. But residents were none to pleased. They fought and voted it down. 

Speaking to the Huntington Beach Independent in 2007, a Los Angeles Performance Artist and architecture student named Patrick Tierney talked about his own research on the mystery. He explained the developer, a man named Stanley Fann placed the monument there as a "500-pound, permanent proclamation of the people's will over art."

Bitter much?

Pay a visit to the shopping center today and you'll notice unique architectural flourishes that hint at a builder with vision: small triangular shapes known as "Wright kites" are placed along the building's facade. The walls were originally intended to be affixed with beautiful tiles but the plan was scrapped as too expensive.

As for Fann, any man that would immortalize his mockery of the land that continues to give us skinheads and bars that perennially brim with douchebags, is alright in our book.

Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >