Lloyd Wright’s John Sowden House in Los Angeles gets a lot of attention due to its famous architect. It’s also infamous for being the possible site of Los Angeles’ most notorious unsolved murder. Yet on a sunny December afternoon, there were no dark shadows or lurid tales. It was the first installment of Afternoon Delight, a series celebrating art, food, wellness, and cannabis.
Afternoon Delight comes via Katie Partlow, who throws 420-friendly parties via her events company LITTLE FACE. At such events, guests might be treated to burlesque, music, comedy, or art in an environment where they can freely consume and learn about cannabis from brands, educators, and activists. After many successful LITTLE FACE events, Partlow tells Leafly she was contacted by the owners of the Sowden House, who were interested in having her curate events within their space.
The Sowden House easily lends itself to entertaining. It was built in 1926 by Lloyd Wright, son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, for painter-photographer John Sowden. While a Mayan temple was the inspiration for the house’s stunning design, many have since compared the jagged textile block facade to the open maw of a shark. The single-story house is dominated by an open-air courtyard with a small rectangular pool and spa. The various rooms, including an open kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms, surround the courtyard. Despite the airiness of the layout, the courtyard still feels private, as the house is set far back from the road and high on a hill.
“The house is a work of art, architecturally, with a lot of history,” Partlow said. “There’s a secret alcohol stash room where people put their booze [during Prohibition] behind a bookshelf. And there’s a rumor that one of the previous owners of the house maybe murdered the Black Dahlia.” Dr. George Hodel, a prominent doctor known for throwing lavish, often risqué parties, owned the house from 1945 to 1950, and has long been suspected by some of murdering Elizabeth Short, better known by her newspaper nickname, “The Black Dahlia.”
When Partlow and the Sowden House’s owners decided to begin collaborating on events, they named their company The Black Dahlia. Partlow’s first Black Dahlia event, on Halloween, was titled Hollywood Forever and encouraged guests to come dressed as celebrities who had passed away, as a means to pay tribute to them. When she contemplated her follow-up event, she knew she wanted a day-time gathering with food, cannabis, artists, music, and self-care.
“I wanted to bring people together to share ideas, in a safe space where they can share their artwork—where they can consume together and socialize, but in a more private way,” Partlow said. That idea manifested as Afternoon Delight. It wasn’t even a little creepy, and there were no references to the home’s unconfirmed past aside from the name of the company.
Guests were asked to secure their phones at the beginning of the event. Each mobile device was sealed in a small Yondr pouch, locked with a device that only the host at the doorway held. The intention was to force guests to be present and engaged, and people didn’t seem to mind the inability to check social media. Instead, we strolled around the courtyard, where each open door offered something new. When choosing vendors and artists, Partlow specifically sought out women, people of color, and LGBTQ participants. Some stations were focused on cannabis, while others emphasized general wellness.
The parlor furthest from the entrance offered a collection of smooth stone pipes from Miwak Junior, reiki sessions via practitioner Goddess Adorned, and tea with Lit Yoga Studio. Lit Yoga, based in Venice, offers a 15-minute tea and cannabis ceremony to kick off their 420-friendly yoga sessions, and for Afternoon Delight, they brought along their wooden tea table. We sat on cushions around the intricately carved bar, while sipping small cups of hot herbal tea. CBD honey was offered for sweetening the tea, while joints via Higgs and flower from Henry’s Original were freely available.
In the kitchen, chef Holden Jagger of Altered Plates worked diligently to set out small bites like fried chicken biscuits with honey aioli, soba noodle salad, and peanut butter cookies. Most of the food was not infused with cannabis, though some of the cookies did contain two milligrams of THC for microdosers. For a slightly higher dose, Denver-based Rebel Cookie Company offered open-faced macarons with a Moscow Mule-flavored infused “caviar,” each small cookie containing six milligrams. Though there was no alcohol served at the event, guests could sip on CBD-infused spritzers or spiced tea mixed with CBD-infused butter.
Elsewhere, Malibu Essential Oils offered a blending class and whiffs of their signature formulas like “Brain On” and the libido-enhancing “Sex Mist.” Artist and candlemaker Amaya of While You Were Dreaming encouraged guests to write love letters to themselves, before she delicately sealed each letter with rainbow-colored wax. Tarot card readings were available in a rear bathroom, where the tub had been filled with inflatable golden balls. An adjacent koi pond offered clandestine seating on a secluded bench, only accessible by gingerly using stepping stones to get across the pond. In one of the more intriguing rooms, Mar Vista-based Healing Through the Soul had set up a “brainwave entrainment” station where guests relaxed on a bed with their eyes closed, headphones on, while a machine displayed a rapidly blinking light meant to synchronize brainwaves. If that was a little too strange for one’s taste, guests could unwind via a 10-minute chair massage instead, or drop in for a bud trimming class near the pool.
As the afternoon wore down, Low Leaf and The Ascension performed as the sun sank behind them—their set began at 4:20 p.m., naturally. The mellow and soulful sound, layered with flute and harp, was a perfect cap to a peaceful day.
Partlow intends to continue using the Sowden House for other 420-friendly events, including future Afternoon Delights and an upcoming immersive theater show. As Afternoon Delight gatherings are private events held in a private residence, Partlow will not be publicly promoting them, but sending out individual invitations instead. Curious parties should make an email introduction to Partlow if they desire an invitation—you can find her here.