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  • Writer's pictureDonette Werkman


On this day, 1 June 1889, 22 year old Frank Lloyd Wright married his first wife, Catherine Lee "Kitty" Tobin (1871-1959) and purchased land in Oak Park, IL to build a house for his wife. It was her wedding present.

He fathered 6 children with Kitty and was never known to be an involved father or husband.

He struck up an affair with client, Edwin Henry Cheney’s wife, Martha Mamah (pronounced May-mah) Borthwick Cheney whilst designing the couple’s house in Oak Park.

Frank and Mamah escaped to Italy, creating quite the social scandal. Edwin granted Mamah a divorce, but Kitty kept hoping that Frank would come back to her and refused to divorce him.

After Wright's return to the United States in late 1910, Wright persuaded his mother to buy land for him in Spring Green, Wisconsin next to some land owned by his mother's family. For the second time he built a house for the love of his life - Taliesin was built for Mamah. Taliesin is a poet, magician, and super- hero in Welsh mythology, and definitely Frank saw himself as a type of Taliesin – from there the naming of the house.

The story ended on a very sad note for Mamah and Frank. In the summer of 1914, Wright was in Chicago completing a large project and Mamah hired a Barbadian, Julian Carlton and his wife as cook and butler. Julian Carlton beat his wife and Mamah fired him on the spot.

Julian took gruesome revenge on Mamah by attacking Mamah and her two children with an ax while they ate and burned Taliesin to the ground. He killed a total of seven people that day after which he attempted suicide and later succumbed to his injuries.

Frank’s love life did not improve, and the scandals build quicker that the famous houses he designed.

Wright's personal life reveals a truly arrogant, selfish man who was incredibly insensitive to others around him. But his work was astounding, especially for the times.

I would like to imagine that Frank Lloyd Wright’s pure approach to architecture did transform him on a personal level as well…although it took a few years!

“The mission of an architect is to help people understand how to make life more beautiful, the world a better one for living in, and to give reason, rhyme, and meaning to life.”

– FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT, 1957..aged 89

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