Who Was Frank Lloyd Wright?

Frank Lloyd Wright, famous American architect of Fallingwater, lead a scandalous life in Oak Grove Illinois with a series of wives and mistresses

Frank Lloyd Wright is commonly thought of as the foremost American architect. He designed houses and buildings in an organic style, always attempting to balance the construction with its natural surroundings. He was a contemporary of the Arts and Crafts architectural movement which had grown tired of the ornate flourishes and excesses of Victorian architecture and adopted simple, sleek lines and wood and stone materials.

Wright is best known for his work on in the Midwest prairies where the structures nestle among lush landscapes. Probably his most famous work is a house known as Falling Water built for Edgar Kaufmann. This magnificent structure is located south of Pittsburgh and is built right atop a large waterfall which empties into a wide stream called Bear Run.

Wright was born into a troubled family in 1867 in Richland Center, Wisconsin. He was a poor student but a voracious reader and enrolled in the University of Wisconsin without completing high school. Despite a good start, he chose to drop out and move to Chicago to work, but nonetheless spent many years trying to escape an overbearing mother.

Quickly obtaining work on the basis of his portfolio of engineering and drafting drawings from the University, Wright moved up the ladder in different companies gaining experience and respect for his skills.

His first marriage to Catherine Tobin produced six children, and throughout the years they lived in their Oak Park home Wright remodeled and expanded it to experiment with his developing style and to accommodate his growing brood. During this time he began to "bootleg" residential jobs from his employers for financial padding to cover his unfortunate lack of skill handling money. Ultimately he left that company and started trying to make it on his own.

Wright deserted his large family in 1909 when he took off to Europe with Martha Borthwick Cheney, known as Mamah (May-ma), the wife of a client, and the resultant publicity was scandalous. In a bizarre tragedy after they were living together, Ms. Cheney, her two children and several other people were killed in a fire intentionally set by their cook. Also destroyed was Wright's labor of love, his home Taliesin.

Wright would rebuild Taliesin, and soon took a new mistress, Miriam Noel, whom he later married. Within a year of their marriage, Wright took a new mistress, Olgivanna Hinzenberg. Olgivanna became pregnant making the divorce proceedings even more miserable for Wright and for herself, as she was married, too. His ongoing financial difficulties nearly caused him to lose Taliesin, but friends and family baled him out, but the firm they founded to save his hide owned the income from his work.

Finally Frank Lloyd Wright married Olgivanna in 1928. As they settled down, Wright was able to develop his craft and gain the recognition that would settle him into history as the greatest American architect. He built them a new home in the Phoenix Arizona and named it Taliesin West. Ultimately repentant for his mistakes, Wright grew serene in his later years. When he died in 1959, he was buried, as per his instructions, at Taliesin North with his murdered mistress, Mamah.

When Olgivanna died in 1985 her last wish was that his remains be brought to Taliesin West in Arizona to mingle with hers in a shared grave. That is his final resting place.

Wright was born into a Baptist family, but would eventually become a Unitarian. He strove to elevate human spirituality by taking cues from nature in his work. His work did not copy shapes in nature, but instead tried to compliment them. The gentle, flowing curves of a landscape, for example, were not diminished by the simple straight edges of Wright's architecture.

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