50 Facts About Frank

50 Facts about Frank Lloyd Wright

This month it will be 50 years since Frank Lloyd Wright passed away. This year will also mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of New York’s Guggenheim Museum, one of Wright’s most famous buildings. To honor the occasion, we bring you 50 facts about Frank Lloyd Wright.

1. Frank Lloyd Wright was recognized in 1991 by the American Institute of Architects as "the greatest American architect of all time."

2. His designs resulted in 532 completed works, including houses, offices, churches, schools, libraries, bridges, museums and a golf course.

3. He also designed a gas station in Cloquet, Minnesota that remains open to this day.

4. Originally named Frank Lincoln Wright (his middle name a tribute to Abraham Lincoln), he changed his middle name to honor his mother's family, the Lloyd Joneses, who were immigrants from Wales.

5. Wright’s son and fellow architect, John Lloyd Wright, invented Lincoln Logs in 1918.

6. Frank Lloyd Wright never graduated from college.

7. He never formally graduated from high school.

8. Early in his career, he was fired from the Adler and Sullivan firm in Chicago for “moonlighting” by designing houses without the firm’s approval.

9. Frank Lloyd Wright constructed buildings in the United States, England, Japan and Canada. In 2007, one of his later designs was realized in the Republic of Ireland.

10. You may find Wright designed buildings in 36 states, with Illinois and Wisconsin boasting the majority.

11. Oak Park, Illinois is home to the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright works, with 25 houses and buildings constructed between 1889 and 1913.

12. In May 1957 he visited Baghdad, Iraq and planned to build there before a change in government nixed his plans.

13. Frank Lloyd Wright was married three times and had seven children.

Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright (AP Photo)

14. In 1889 he married his first wife, Catherine Lee “Kitty” Tobin, daughter of a wealthy Chicago businessman.

15. Of Chicago he once said, “Eventually, I think Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world.”

16. In 1909, he left his wife and children to go to Europe with mistress Mamah Cheney.

17. He returned to the U.S. and lived with Cheney in Spring Green, Wisconsin at the Taliesin home from 1911-14.

18. In 1914, a servant set fire to Taliesin and then murdered seven of its occupants as they tried to flee the burning house. Among them was Ms. Cheney.

19. Wright lost Taliesin in 1922 when he went bankrupt and was evicted by his creditors.

20. He eventually regained ownership of the Taliesin home, but it was destroyed in a second fire in 1925. He rebuilt once more.

21. Wright married his second wife, Miriam Noel, in 1923. She was addicted to morphine and the marriage lasted less than a year.

22. Wright married his third wife, a dancer from Montenegro named Olgivanna Ivanovna Lazovich, in 1928. He was thirty-one years her senior.

23. In 1932, Wright founded the "Taliesin Fellowship," an apprenticeship school devoted to teaching not just architecture, but farming, gardening, cooking, music, art and dance.

24. Wright established Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1937.

Taliesin West
Taliesin West (image via flickr creative commons / Cavalier92 )

25. Actor Anthony Quinn once applied to study with Wright at Taliesin. Wright suggested he take voice lessons to help overcome a speech impediment.

26. According to Wright, “A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.”

27. Wright spent six years in Japan designing Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel, a building he boasted was earthquake proof.

28. The Imperial Hotel did survive the 1923 earthquake which destroyed much of Tokyo, though it suffered irreparable structural damage to its foundations.

29. General Douglas MacArthur used the Imperial Hotel as his occupation headquarters after WWII.

30. The Imperial Hotel was eventually torn down in 1968.

31. Wright was an active dealer in Japanese art. During the Depression, he made more money selling art than from his work as an architect.

32. Wright’s favorite musician was composer Ludwig Van Beethoven.

33. The song "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" was written by Paul Simon as a way to say goodbye to his architecture-loving friend, Art Garfunkel.

34. Frank Lloyd Wright was the inspiration for Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.

35. He also recently appeared as himself in Nancy Horan’s novel Loving Frank and T.C. Boyle’s Women. (Boyle also lives in a house designed by Wright.)

36. Wright once said, “Buildings, too, are children of Earth and Sun.”

37. He sketched the designs for his most famous house, Fallingwater – the most famous modern house in the world – in less than three hours.

38. The Vanndamm house in North by Northwest was not designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but by set designers Robert Boyle, William A. Horning, Merrill Pye, Henry Grace and Frank McKelvey – acting on Alfred Hitchcock’s instructions to create a Wright-like home because hiring Frank Lloyd Wright himself was prohibitively expensive.

39. Wright was approached to design buildings for the set of King Vidor’s adaptation of The Fountainhead, but Warner Bros. balked when he demanded a fee equal to 10% of the film’s total budget (see also fact #35).

40. The Oscar-winning actress Anne Baxter was Wright's granddaughter.

41. In 1956, Wright appeared on “What’s My Line?” as a Mystery Guest. The other Mystery Guest that night was Liberace.

42. Of Los Angeles he once said, “Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.”

43. Of New York he once said, “New York City is a great monument to the power of money and greed.”

44. New York's Guggenheim Museum, Wright’s most famous large scale building, was completed six months after his death.

Guggenheim Museum
Guggenheim Museum (image via flickr creative commons / rpa2101)

45. The Guggenheim will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2009 with an exhibition featuring more than 200 original Wright drawings. Many of the drawings have never been seen in public before.

46. In addition to designing buildings, Frank Lloyd Wright designed stained glass windows and furniture for many of his homes’ interiors.

47. If you would like to sleep in a Wright house, some that now lodge overnight guests include the Louis Penfield House in Ohio, the Haynes House in Indiana, the Schwartz House in Wisconsin, the Muirhead Farmhouse in Illinois, the Duncan House in Pennsylvania and the Seth Peterson Cottage in Wisconsin.

48. Frank Lloyd Wright never retired, but worked until his death in 1959.

49. Frank Lloyd Wright died in Phoenix, Arizona at the age of 91.

50. The epitaph at his Wisconsin grave site reads: "Love of an idea, is the love of God."

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Originally published 04/02/09