Frank Lloyd Wright-A Man Far Ahead of His Time

If you've followed my recent hubs (Wall Whispers about abandoned buildings and My Architectural Fascination-England), you'll notice that I've been spotlighting my fascination with architecture.

Assuming that you've heard of world-renown architect Frank Lloyd Wright, most think of the Guggenheim Museum or Fallingwater as his iconic work of art. But, did you realize that he designed Fallingwater in under three hours in 1935? That's an incredible feat. I sit in awe at his work. The structures he created are timeless. They do not represent a period in time like so many structures do. His style was unique and even looks futuristic now some seventy years later!

Frank Lloyd Wright was recognized in 1991 by the American Institute of Architects as the "greatest American Architect of all time". I couldn't agree more. If you get a chance, go to your local library or bookstore and thumb through a book of his work. Then, slowly let it sink in when these designs were created. The man was a genius.

Please read all of the quick facts about him below. There are few surprises in there I'm sure you didn't know.

Frank Lloyd Wright Biography Quick Facts

The following facts about Frank Lloyd Wright were assimilated from various resources, including several biographies found on the internet as well Wikipedia. The links to all of these sources are listed in the links below.

  • Born in Richland Center, Wisconsin on June 8, 1867
  • Without finishing high school, he took two semesters of civil engineering at the Univ of Wisconsin
  • His first building was the Lloyd-Jones family chapel, also known as Unity Chapel
  • Married Catherine Tobin and moved to Oak Park, Illinois and built a home raising their six children
  • Wright had his own firm in Chicago for five years before transferring the practice to his home in Oak Park.
  • In 1909, after eighteen years in Oak Park, Wright left his home to move to Germany with a woman named Mamah Borthwick Cheney, who was the wife of a client. When they returned in 1911, they moved to Spring Green, Wisconsin.

  • In Spring Green, he constructed Taliesin. Taliesin in Welsh mythology was a poet, magician, and superhero. They lived there until 1914 when tragedy struck. An insane male Barbados servant tragically murdered Mamah Cheney, two of her children and four others, then set fire to Taliesin. Many people thought this horrific event would be the end of Wright's career and it did take him ten years to recover. He did rebuild Taliesin.

  • Over the next 20 years Wright's influence continued to grow in popularity in the United States and Europe. In 1915, Wright was commissioned to design the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.

  • Wright utilized natural materials, skylights, stone and walls of windows to embrace the natural environment.

  • In 1932, Wright opened Taliesin up as an architectural fellowship where young students could pay to work with and learn from him. Thirty apprentices came to live with him at Taliesin. Through the Taliesin Fellowship, Wright created masterpieces such as Fallingwater (the Kaufmann House) in Bear Run, Pennsylvania, and the SC Johnson and Son Wax Company Administration Center in Racine, Wisconsin.

  • He married Miriam Noel in 1922. The two lived happily in Taliesin for five years and raised a child there. Eventually, Miriam walked out on Wright. Miriam suffered with a morphine addiction.

  • On April 22, 1925, another fire destroyed the living quarters of Taliesin as a result of a faulty electrical system. Wright rebuilt the living quarters again, naming the home Taliesin III.

  • He married his third wife, Olivanna Lazovich Hinzenburg in 1928.

  • In 1937, Wright moved his family and fellowship to Phoenix, Arizona where he built Taliesin West and spent the last twenty years of his life.

  • January 17, 1938, he appeared on the cover of Time Magazine.

  • Frank Lloyd Wright appears on a US postage stamp with the Guggenheim Museum in the background.

  • On April 9, 1959 at age ninety-two, Wright died at his home in Phoenix, Arizona.

  • Wright created 1,141 designs, of which 532 were completed.

  • He authored 20 books.

  • One of Wright's sons, Frank Lloyd Wright Jr., known as Lloyd Wright, was also a notable architect in Los Angeles.

  • Lloyd Wright's son (and Wright's grandson), Eric Lloyd Wright, is currently an architect in Malibu California where he has a practice of mostly residences, but also civic and commercial buildings.

  • Another son and architect, John Lloyd Wright, invented Lincoln Logs in 1918, and practiced extensively in the San Diego area. John's daughter, Elizabeth Ingraham, is an architect in Colorado. She is the mother of Christine, an interior designer in Connecticut, and Catherine, an architecture professor at the Pratt Institute.

  • The Oscar-winning actress Anne Baxterwas Wright's granddaughter. Baxter was the daughter of Catherine Baxter, a child born of Wright's first marriage. Anne's daughter, Melissa Galt, currently lives and works in Atlanta as an interior designer.

  • A great-grandson of Wright, S. Lloyd Natof, currently lives and works in Chicago as a master woodworker who specializes in the design and creation of custom wood furniture.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Texas Works

Being from Texas, all things Texas catch my eye. Frank Lloyd Wright had four buildings in Texas that are part of his works. They are:

  • John A. Gillin House in Dallas, TX-1950
  • William A. Thaxton House in Bunker Hill, TX-1954
  • Dallas Theatre Center (Kalita Humphreys Theatre) in Dallas, TX 1955 (This was completed after his death)
  • Sterling Kinney House in Amarillo, TX-1957

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Comments 24 comments

Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

You are so thorough!! It would be nice to see more of his designs.. they are amazing, but I'm more a 'craftsman' style home person. So will you do a hub on this one too?? Please??


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

I try to be thorough, Candie. It does take a lot of research to do a hub like this one. I was searching all over my house for a book I have on Frank Lloyd Wright and I never found it. I know my daughter took it to school at one point to show her art teacher, and I doubt it ever made it back home. My daughter will be taking interior design and is also fascinated by the works of Frank Lloyd Wright.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

What a creative genius he was. I've been to the Guggenheim Museum in NY and it's amazing. Also, I'm from Chicago and there are many buildings in and around the city utilizing his designs. I love beautiful and interesting architecture too. I live in an 1882 Victorian brick home situated Louisville, KY in the 3rd largest preservation area in the country. We have seven major kinds of architecture here; houses all built before 1900. Thanks for an interesting hub.


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

I would love to visit some of his places, Alekhouse. You're right, the majority of his works are in the Chicago area. Your home and current area sound lovely! All right up my alley! Thanks for stopping by! (Guggenheim is on my to-do list)


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

I've been to Falling Water, and loved it -- the way it integrated the stream under the house and the levels of the structure against the landscape is beautiful. Great hub, KCC -- very informative, thank you for all this research.


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

Oh cool, Teresa! I watched several YouTube videos on Fallingwater when researching info on this hub and it is an incredible house. I'd love to visit it as well. I think I'll go grab those videos and add them to this hub. One, if I can find it again, tells the story of how he drew it in less than 3 hrs while Mr. Kaufmann was on his way to meet him.


J. Kumm profile image

J. Kumm 7 years ago from Washington

Arizona is a Frank Lloyd Wright fan's dream. Here is one of the more recent projects:

The Frank Lloyd Wright Spire

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMBGX


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

Thanks for the link, J.Kumm! I love the quote at the end of the article regarding why Arizona is the ugliest state. That's priceless. Thanks for sharing!


rongould profile image

rongould 7 years ago

He was an incredible designer. When I was doing a lot of stained glass, I drew heavily on his "Prairie Home" designs for many of the panels and designs I did.

Thanks for a great hub!


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

That's the thing, Ron, I didn't even touch on his work with glass and home furnishings. There is so much more he did that what I even touched on. I just don't think people realize the signficance of his work when they look at it. This man was creating these things before had cars! These futuristic houses were INCREDIBLE masterpieces for their time. Thanks for stopping by, Ron. I bet your panels and designs were awesome! Got any to share in a hub?


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Wouldn't it be fabulous to be an inventor. I remember watching the inventor of cat's eyes on television, you know those road ilghts, many years ago. He was such an ordinary but eccentric bloke who had become a multi millionaire. Interesting hub


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

I agree Ethel! The guy you're talking about sounds interesting! I may have to look him up. Luckily for me, having been to England, I'm familiar with what you're calling "cat's eyes". We don't call them that here. Here they are simply referred to as road reflectors. We also don't use them as many places as you do, much to the annoyance of my husband.


AsherKade profile image

AsherKade 7 years ago from Texas

my brother i law went to England.The architecture there is far out!


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

Any idea who he is, AsherKade? Might be interesting to do some research on him.


J. Kumm profile image

J. Kumm 7 years ago from Washington

lol@KCC I'm missed that quote "muffed the ball"


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

LOL.....how could you miss THAT? LOL Thanks for stopping back by J. Kumm.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

Thank you for a fine article. I have been familiar with him since boyhood, as he designed 3 homes in my hometown:

Howard Anthony House (S.315), Benton Harbor, Michigan, 1949. This home was constructed of cypress, stone, and cedar shingles. It overlooks the St. Joseph River, and has a plan based on diamond-pattern modules. The client it was built for was the developer of the electronic "Heathkit" sold by the Heath Company which was founded by Ed Heath. "Since Anthony was an avid bird watcher, Wright provided a balcony and windows overlooking the ravine" - Kathryn Bishop Eckert, The Buildings of Michigan.

Ina Morris Harper House (S.329), St. Joseph, Michigan, 1950. This L-plan house is located across the street from Lake Michigan. It is constructed of sand-mold brick and cypress.

Carl Schultz House (S.426), St Joseph, Michigan, 1957. This house cantilevers out over a St. Joseph River ravine, and is built with pavement brick and mahogany trim.

He also designed three homes nearby in Grand Beach, Michigan.

And his son-in-law designed a landmark motel in my home town:

http://www.jetsetmodern.com/snowflake.htm


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

I had to smile when I saw the comment by "alekhouse" because I live in a Victorian home built in—1882! It is the oldest house in Orlando.


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

How cool, James! I really want to see some of his stuff in person. I have yet to do that. I fell in love with Frank Lloyd Wright YEARS ago after watching a biography program on TV about him. I was captivated. I passed that on to my kids. They both fell in love with his work as well.

I think you and alekhouse should compare notes! Or write a co-authored hub on it or something!


Jodi Hoeksel profile image

Jodi Hoeksel 7 years ago

This is a awesome hub! I admire Frank Llyod Wright's work and so agree he was before his time!


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

Thanks Jodi! I wonder if we'll see the likes of him.


Dave Powell profile image

Dave Powell 5 years ago from Winchester, MA

Hi KCC,

A wonderful commentary! I'd be very interested to get your opinion in a poll I just placed on HubPages (and linked to your hub). I'm not an architect, but like you, I LOVE the subject!

Sincerely,

Dave Powell


cristal savannah 4 years ago

he is amazing.


Jel15 3 years ago

Having visited around 150 of his homes and buildings, I am a bit of a “Frank-fanatic” and came across your posting while researching some Wright houses I plan to visit soon. I mean this in only the best possible way, but I feel that I must correct or give clarification to a few of the things you have listed.

“Married Catherine Tobin and moved to Oak Park, Illinois and built a home raising their five children”

Frank and Catherine actually had 6 children together: in 1890 - Frank Lloyd Wright Jr (known as Lloyd), 1892 – John Lloyd Wright, 1894 – Catherine, 1895 – David Samuel Wright, 1898 – Frances and 1903 – Robert Llewellyn Wright. (I’ve met David’s daughter Elizabeth Catherine Wright so I’m pretty sure he actually existed.)

(Frank also had a daughter, Iovanna, in 1925 with his 3rd wife Olgivanna; and after they married in 1928 he adopted her daughter Svetlana from her 1st marriage.)

“…servant tragically murdered Mamah Cheney, two of her children and four others, then set fire to Taliesin…”

Julian Carlton actually set the fire and then murdered his vicitms as they tried to escape the burning building. Also the wording makes it sound as though Mamah had more than two children. Instead of saying “two of her children” it would be better to say her two children.

“Over the next 20 years Wright's influence continued to grow in popularity…” Actually the next 20 years following the 1st fire at Taliesin were hard for Wright personally, professionally and financially. A man always ahead of his time, his lifestyle of living with another man’s wife (Mamah) did not endear him to the majority of the American public a hundred years ago, his prairie style houses were very controversial and unwanted by most neighbors, and his short troubled marriage to Miriam Noel and the beginning of his relationship with Olgivanna led on occasion to legal problems. Also the economy and the Depression didn’t make anyone’s life easier. It was actually about 20 years later in 1936 with the building of Fallingwater that Frank started to become more widely known.

“He married Miriam Noel in 1922. The two lived happily in Taliesin for five years and raised a child there.” They actually were married in 1923 and separated in 1924. There was probably very little about their marriage that could be described as happy – he was a man with an ego as big as his talent and she was a troubled addicted woman. Luckily they did not have any children together to raise at Taliesin or anywhere else. They divorced in 1927. (He did have a daughter with Olgivanna in 1925 while he was still married to Miriam.)

“In 1937, Wright moved his family and fellowship to Phoenix, Arizona where he built Taliesin West and spent the last twenty years of his life.” Actually after building Taliesin West, Frank would spend his remaining years spending summers in Wisconsin and winters in Arizona. Until he died he was still working on changes and improvements to both Taliesin and Taliesin West. The Taliesin Fellowship continues to move back and forth between the two.

“On April 9, 1959 at age ninety-two, Wright died at his home in Phoenix, Arizona.” Technically he died in a Phoenix hospital while undergoing surgery two months shy of his 92 birthday. Had it been a month later he probably would have been back in Wisconsin for the summer. His youngest son Robert Llewellyn drove to Arizona to bring Frank back to Wisconsin to be buried next to the Lloyd-Jones family chapel. When Olgivanna died 26 years later per her request Frank’s body was dug up, cremated and his ashes mixed with hers before being used in a wall of a memorial garden at Taliesin West back in Phoenix. This did not sit well with his children by his first wife Catherine.

Thanks for your patience. Frank's work is definitely worth the time and drive to see, even if there's only one building in the area you're heading to that day.

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