Designs for an American Landscape
August 14, 2006 12:58 PM   Subscribe

The decade between 1922 & 1932 was not a good one for Frank Lloyd Wright; his star had faded in the US upon his return from Japan, and even though his most prolific years were still ahead of him, he had trouble finding work, and was evicited, his fabled home siezed by creditors. The Library of Congress hosts a fantastic collection of 5 projects he undertook during this era, none of which ever came to fruition. All that's left are his extensive blueprints, perspective drawings, and scale models carved specifically for the exhibit.
posted by jonson (15 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've read two bios about Wright and wow, what an amazing life. Somewhat of a prima donna of course, but as difficult as his life was during that time it's amazing that he was able to do the things he did.

One of the stories I read about him was he went into a Cadillac dealership during this time to order a new convertible but wanted a convertible top installed that he designed. After the salesmen were all through working through the details, Wright turned to his assistants and told them to finish up the deal. Wright had no money at the time and apparently got the car for free or ran off with it or something. . . It's amazing all the people he was able to b.s. into loaning or giving him money. . .
posted by mk1gti at 1:04 PM on August 14, 2006

Fascinating stuff. Although, he was still designing and building during this period, notably the one a couple of miles from where I grew up -- Westhope.

The story goes that the homeowner, Jenkin Lloyd Jones (publisher of the Tulsa Tribune), called Wright up during a Tulsa thunderstorm and said, "Frank, you can design a house, but you can't design a goddamned roof!"
posted by dw at 1:05 PM on August 14, 2006

Oops. Richard Lloyd Jones. Jenkin was his son.
posted by dw at 1:07 PM on August 14, 2006

I want time travel to be possible, so that we can put N. Tesla, F. L. Wright, T. Edison and B. Fuller in a laboratory and workshop to put together a reality TV show that I'd actually watch.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:16 PM on August 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

Nice post! The LOC site keeps using weird language to describe the rich people Wright was dealing with "considerable wealth" and "woman of means" were two euphemisms that struck me.

I've always enjoyed his drawing style. A friend just visited the National Building Museum where there's currently an exhibit about the Prarie Skyscraper Wright designed. She said it was great. I'm planning to go.
posted by OmieWise at 1:18 PM on August 14, 2006

I remember that house, cold in winter, too hot in the summer. Here's a nice photo of the house in Tulsa.

posted by mk1gti at 1:20 PM on August 14, 2006

Madison finally built the Monona Terrace forty years later.
posted by caddis at 1:24 PM on August 14, 2006

Kickstart70 writes "I want time travel to be possible, so that we can put N. Tesla, F. L. Wright, T. Edison and B. Fuller in a laboratory and workshop to put together a reality TV show that I'd actually watch."

Tesla and Edison would kill each other. Anyway, someone made a comic along similar lines...
posted by mullingitover at 2:17 PM on August 14, 2006

The decade between 1922 & 1932 was not a good one for Frank Lloyd Wright ... he had trouble finding work, and was evicited, his fabled home siezed by creditors.

I'm imagining him sleeping under a bridge in boxes -- a really cool, organic, perfectly placed box structure beneath a bridge. But it leaks.
posted by pracowity at 3:07 PM on August 14, 2006

While Wright was in Chicago on business, August 20, 1914 was most definitely not a good day at Taliesin East:
Murderer of Seven: Sets Fire to Country Home of Frank Lloyd Wright Near Spring Green

While the members of the household were at dinner, last Saturday, Julian Carlton, a negro servant, fired Frank Lloyd Wright’s bungalow, murdered seven and seriously wounded one with a hatchet and another received injuries in jumping from a window. The dead are:

Mrs. Mamah Borthwick [^], their son and daughter, John and Martha Cheney, aged 11 and 9 respectively; Emil Brodelle, aged 30, an architectural draftsman; Thomas Brunker, of Ridgeway, hostler; Ernest Weston, 13-year-old son of Mr. And Mrs. Wm. Weston of Spring Green; and David Lindblom, gardener.

The wounded are: William H. Weston of Spring Green, foreman of the bungalow activities, and Herbert Fritz of Chicago. The latter escaped the negro’s wrath but received a broken arm and glass cuts in making his escape through a window. He was also slightly burned.
More from Ken Burn's November 1998 Vanity Fair article, The Master Builders:
Wright had hired a West Indian named Julian Carlton to serve as butler and handyman at Taliesin; Carlton's wife was to be the cook. Then something went wrong; no one would ever know precisely what. Mamah may have told them they would have to leave. Meryle Secrest describes it best: "The final meal that they were to serve was lunch on Saturday.... Julian Carlton appeared in his white jacket and served lunch as usual. He then asked permission to clean some carpets with gasoline. He was given permission; he went outside, and instead of pouring it on the carpets, poured it all the way around the outside of the windows and doors."

As Manah and the others continued lunch, Carlton quietly bolted the doors and windows. Then he lit the gasoline. In seconds the house was engulfed in flames. When those inside tried to flee, Carlton hacked them to death with an ax. "If you can imagine, this all happened in a fraction of a second," Secrest continues. "He had killed Mamah ... by splitting her skull. He also did the same with her son. He attacked her daughter. Everything was in disarray, people were screaming, trying to jump out of windows, [but] they were a story and a half above the ground. One man jumped out, broke his arm, was in flames, was rolling on the ground. Other men were being butchered.... Of the nine people who had sat down to luncheon, seven were dead or dying."
Julian Carlton was captured, but died in jail (without explaining his motives) before his trial began. Wright buried Manah himself in a simple wooden coffin, and revealed his feelings about her in a letter to his neighbors. He rebuilt the destroyed portion of Taliesin, but it accidentally burned down again on April 22, 1925.
posted by cenoxo at 3:17 PM on August 14, 2006

After that he married a crazed nutter, Miriam Noel who hounded him for a good part of his life.

Wright wed Miriam Noel in November 1923, but her addiction to morphine led to the failure of the marriage in less than one year. In 1924, after the separation, Wright met Olga (Olgivanna) Lazovich Hinzenburg, at the Petrograd Ballet. They moved in together at Taliesin in 1925, but in 1926, Olga's ex-husband sought custody of his daughter. In Minnetonka, Minnesota, Wright and Olgivanna were accused of violating the Mann Act and arrested in October 1925. The charges were dropped in 1926. The couple married in 1928.

see wikipedia (sorry I can't link, klon-ker-er at work)
posted by mk1gti at 3:56 PM on August 14, 2006

Fuck Edison, I'd put Alexander Graham Bell in that reality show.
posted by Eekacat at 5:54 PM on August 14, 2006

Another gem of a post, jonson - thanks!
posted by madamjujujive at 8:47 PM on August 14, 2006

I was just in DC at a Wright exhibit but it wasn't this one. I was at the National Building Museum seeing the exhibit about the skyscraper he built in Oklahoma... Oh, hi Omie! The best thing about the exhibit was the attetnion to detail put into every part of the thing, from the molding on the outside of the buildings to the shape of the desk chairs inside the buildings.

It's also interesting to go to Wisconsin and see not just his fancier stuff, but also some of the more modular working-class style housing (some of which is slowly falling into disrepair as shabby rental units). My ex used to live down the street from this Wright church which always made you slow down as you'd go by it.
posted by jessamyn at 5:51 AM on August 15, 2006

The Price Tower, unfortunately, is so small compared to modern skyscrapers that when modern fire codes were put in place in Bartlesville the building basically had to be abandoned.

Bartlesville has turned it into the Price Tower Arts Center.
posted by dw at 7:42 AM on August 15, 2006

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