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The Life of Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright was born as Frank Lincoln Wright in Richland Center in southwestern Wisconsin, on June 8, 1867 (a date sometimes reported as 1869). His father, William Carey Wright, was a musician and a preacher. His mother, Anna Lloyd-Jones was a teacher. It is said that Anna Lloyd-Jones placed pictures of great buildings in young Frank's nursery as part of training him up from the earliest possible moment as an architect. Wright spent some of his time growing up at the farm owned by his uncles near Spring Green, Wisconsin (also in the southwestern part of the state). Frank Lloyd Wright was of Welsh ethnic heritage, and was brought up in the Unitarian faith.

Wright briefly studied civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, after which he moved to Chicago to work for a year in the architectural firm of J. Lyman Silsbee. In 1887, he hired on as a draftsman draftsman in the firm of Adler and Sullivan, run by Louis Sullivan (design) and Dankmar Adler (engineering) at the time the firm was designing Chicago's Auditorium Building. Wright eventuallly became the chief draftsman, and also the man in charge of the firm's residential designs. Under Sullivan, whom Wright called "Lieber Meister" (beloved master), Wright began to develop his own architectural ideas. In 1889 he married his first wife, Catherine Tobin. He also designed houses on his own toward the end, homes Wright called "bootlegged" which were done against Alder and Sullivan's policies concerning such moonlighting. When Louis Sullivan found out about these homes, Wright was fired from the firm.The bootlegged houses showed the start of Wright's low, sheltering rooflines, the prominence of the central fireplace, nd "the destruction of the box" open floorplans. The Adler and Sullivan firm was just the right place to be for a young man aspiring to be a great architect, as it was at the leading edge of American architecture at the time.

Wright started his own firm in 1893 after being fired from Adler and Sullivan, first working out of the Schiller building (designed by Adler and Sullivan) and then out of a studio which was built onto his home in Oak Park, an affluent suburb of Chicago which is located just to the west of the center of the city.

Between 1893 and 1901, 49 buildings designed by Wright were built. During this period he began to develop his ideas which would come to t ogether in his "Prairie House" concept. Into 1909, he developed and refined the prairie style. Frank Lloyd Wright founded the "prairie school" of architecture, and his art of this early productive period in his life is also considered as part of the "Arts and Crafts movement".

This very productive first phase in Wright's career ended in 1909, when he left his wife and 5 children to go to Germany. He was joined there by Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the wife of a former client and now his lover. From 1912-1914, Wright and Ms. Chaney lived together at Taliesin, a home Wright had built at the site of his uncles' farm near Spring Green. This period ended when a crazed servant murdered Ms. Chaney and 6 others, also setting a fire that destroyed much of Taliesin.

During the period from 1914-1932, a time of personal turmoil and change, Wright rebuilt Taliesin (and nearly lost it to bank forclosure), divorced Catherine, married and separated from Miriam Noel (spending a little time in jail as part of this situation), and met his third wife, Olgivanna Milanoff (a Bosnian Serb who was a student of G. I. Gurdjieff). Architectural designs during this period included the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo (a large and complex design that required much time in Japan to oversee it), and the concrete California residences. Few commissions were completed toward the end of this period, but Wright did lecture and publish frequently, with books including An Autobiography in 1932.

The Taliesin Fellowship was founded in 1932, with thirty apprentices who came to live and learn under Mr. Wright. An Autobiography served as an advertisement, inspiring many who read it to seek him out. The architect's output became more organized and prolific, with help of the numerous apprentices who assisted in design detail and site supervision. His most famous work, Fallingwater, was designed in 1936. The fellowship was expanded as Taliesin West was built in Arizona as a winter location for the school. The Taliesin Associated Architects, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation are living legacies of what Mr. Wright founded in 1932.

Few buildings wre produced during the war years, but the G.I.Bill brought many new apprentices when the war ended. This post-war period to the end of Wright's life was the most productive. He received 270 house commissions, and designed and built the Price Tower skyscraper, the Guggenheim Museum (which required Wright to live in New York City for a time), and the Marin County Civic Center.

"So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright"
Wright never retired; he died on April 9, 1959 at the age of ninety-two in Arizona. He was interred at the graveyard at Unity Chapel (which is considered to be his first building) at Taliesin in Wisconsin. In 1985, Olgivanna Wright passed away, and one of her wishes was to have Frank Lloyd Wright's remains cremated and the ashes placed next to hers at Taliesin West. Amid much controversy, this was done. The epitaph at his Wisconsin grave site reads: "Love of an idea, is the love of God"

Links to Frank Lloyd Wright biographies: The following links to go Frank Lloyd Wright biographical information found at different sites.

  • Frank Lloyd Wright: Innovator in American Architecture. An essay by Eileen Marie Egger. This is a very extensive biography.
  • Bio Data at the Unofficial Home Page of Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Biography information at
  • Geneology of Wright's father's side

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