Frank Lloyd Wright was an American architect, a genius in the originality of his work and was considered one of the greatest figures in 20th century architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright was originally named Frank Lincoln Wright and later changed his middle name from Lincoln to Lloyd after his parents’ divorce.
Frank Lloyd Wright was born June 8, 1867 in Richland Center in southwestern Wisconsin to William Cary Wright a music teacher and a Baptist minister and Anna Lloyd Jones, a teacher. Growing up, Frank’s mother would post pictures of large and beautiful buildings in his room’s walls with the intent of inspiring him from the earliest time of his life to become an architect. At age 10, his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin where his father taught music lessons and became the secretary of the newly formed Unitarian Church. Unable to consistently provide for his family, his mother asked for a divorce which was finalized in 1885. Frank’s father left Wisconsin after the divorce to never again be seen by his wife or children.
Frank Lloyd Wright attended Madison High School and later took classes for a couple of semesters including drafting at the University of Wisconsin. He was offered a job while attending the University of Wisconsin working for Allan D. Conover, a local professor of civil engineering. In 1887, he decided to leave school and take the next train to Chicago. He quickly found a job working in the architectural firm of Joseph Lyman Silsbee as a tracer for about eight dollars a week. He worked for Joseph Lyman Silsbee’s for a period of a year before he decided to take a better paying drafting job working for the firm of Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Alder helping with the new design of the Auditorium Theater in Chicago. Frank often referred to Sullivan as his “beloved Master” and considered him to be the only architect who made an impact in his future work. Once Sullivan discovered that Frank was designing houses without his knowledge and was accepting independent commissions, feeling betrayed he soon fired him.
In 1889, he met and married his first of three wives Catherine Lee Clark Tobin the daughter of a wealthy businessman. He bought a lot in Oak Park, Illinois and built his first home. Frank and Catherine raised six children together in the house that went through so many changes and additions to accommodate the needs of his growing family, and more importantly, to develop his Prairie style of architecture.
Frank opened up an architectural office in downtown Chicago after he was fired from Sullivan and Dankmar. In 1894 he relocated his firm to the 11th floor of the Steinway Piano Company building, where others interested in starting the Prairie School of Architecture soon joined him. This arrangement only lasted for four years when he decided to add a studio onto his home in Oak Park to establish his own practice.
In 1903, Frank designed a house for Edwin Cheney, a neighbor in Oak Park and soon fell in love with his client’s wife Margaret or “Mamah” Borthwick Cheney regardless of his 20 years of marriage to his wife Catherine. Catherine refused to grant Frank a divorce so in 1909, Frank and Mamah flew secretly to Europe allowing them a chance to deepen their relationship. They lived in Europe for a period of two years before returning to the U.S.
Shortly after his return to the U.S., Frank closed his Oak Park studio to start a new firm in Chicago. He also built a house that he called Taliesin for himself and Mamah Cheney located in Spring Green, on a property that his mother purchased for him. On August 15, 1914 while Frank was working on an important project in Chicago, a recently hired male worker, Julian Carleton set his Taliesin home on fire after killing Mamah, her two children and four other workers with an axe. Devastated, Frank decided to bury himself in his work. Following the incident at Taliesin, Frank met Miriam Noel a self-proclaimed sculptor. He decided to rebuild his Taliesin home and married Miriam Noel in November 1923. Her addiction to morphine soon dissolved the marriage. Frank met Olga Milanoff Hinzenberg and asked her to move in with him. Three years later after the birth of their daughter, he and Olga were married.
Frank passed away on April 9th 1949. He has left a rich heritage of unique and magnificent buildings. He is one the most recognizable architects of all time.