Virginia Ernst Kazor, 1940-2021
Photo by (c) Mark Hertzberg
Photo by (c) Mark Hertzberg
Virginia Ernst Kazor, whose passion for preservation was matched only by her dedication to friends and family, passed away peacefully in her Los Angeles home on Wednesday September 8th, 2021. Born in Detroit, Michigan, to Frederic and Margorie Ernst, she graduated from Marymount High School and the University of Southern California. Torn between two interests, she studied architecture but graduated with a B.A. in Art History. Upon graduating she was thrilled to get a job working for the new Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in the Modern Art section headed by Maurice Tuchman. She specialized in the work of Edward Kienholz, which led to her being cast in plaster for the model of the socialite in Kienholz’s walk-in artwork, “Barney’s Beanery”.
Ginny went on to dedicate 40 years to the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs. From 1970 to 1978, she was Curator for the Municipal Art Gallery in Barnsdall Park. She then became the Historic Site Curator for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Hollywood. Her contributions included spearheading the renovation and restoration of this famous 1920’s Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. Her biggest achievement was overseeing the complete recreation of the furnishings in the living room and the very elaborate T-shaped living room carpet, custom-made to spread into adjoining rooms. In 2002, she received the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy’s highest honor, the Wright Spirit Award, for her work in preserving Hollyhock House. In 2019, Hollyhock House was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
From 1991 to 2010, she was also Curator of Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers, the internationally-known cultural heritage monument in Los Angeles. Ginny also served on the Board of Directors of the Architectural Foundation of Los Angeles, Taliesin Fellows, the Southern California chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, and the Neighborhood Conservation Committee of the Los Angeles Conservancy. She was a founding member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in the 1980s, helping create the organization and coordinate national meetings, and for which she received the Wright Spirit Award. In addition, she was an instructor on the life and works of Frank Lloyd Wright at UCLA Extension (1987-1994).
In her community, she was responsible for the creation of the Wilton Historic District in the late 1970s, stopping the demolition of many early 20th century homes. The Wilton Historic District was created when the City attempted to remove the curve at 2nd Street and widen it to a throughway as wide as the Pasadena freeway. The creation of the Wilton Historic District dried up all the federal funds for the project and saved five homes.
Ginny founded and was very active in the Ridgewood Wilton Neighborhood Association. She never stopped volunteering and was still on the board at the time of her death. She was married in 1970 to her first husband Gene Kazor, who passed away in 1994. She was one of five children, three of whom predeceased her: Margaret Mowrer Norton, Patricia Lynch and Fred Ernst. Ginny is survived by her second husband Tom Koester, a filmmaker whom she married in 2003, as well as her youngest brother, William Ernst. She developed Parkinson’s in the 1990s but refused to allow that to slow her down. She passed away due to complications from her Parkinson’s disease. Ginny will be sorely missed by family, friends, neighbors and lovers of the arts.
Posted on September 15, 2021