Lost Wright: Frank Lloyd Wright's Vanished Masterpieces

Lost Wright: Frank Lloyd Wright's Vanished Masterpieces

by Carla Lind

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Despite Frank Lloyd Wright's global renown, more than one hundred of his buildings-one of every five built-have been destroyed. Gone are his majestic Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and the playful Midway Gardens in Chicago. Buffalo has lost the innovative Larkin Administration Building. Gone, too, are notable residences such as the palatial Little House in Minnesota and the…  See more details below


Despite Frank Lloyd Wright's global renown, more than one hundred of his buildings-one of every five built-have been destroyed. Gone are his majestic Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and the playful Midway Gardens in Chicago. Buffalo has lost the innovative Larkin Administration Building. Gone, too, are notable residences such as the palatial Little House in Minnesota and the stables in Mississippi he designed for his mentor, Louis Sullivan. Apartment buildings, houses large and small, retail spaces, resort colonies, garages, garden structures, and monumental high-profile commissions-all have been lost to future generations.

"How could it happen?" asks author Carla Lind in Lost Wrights. She then proceeds to show exactly how and why each of these buildings is no longer here. Illustrated with fascinating and often rare photographs, descriptions are arranged by building type from houses to apartments, recreation to business. Originally published in 1996 but out of print for several years, this is a revised and expanded edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Nearly 100 of the more than 500 buildings Wright built no longer exist because of fire, demolition, or purposeful neglect. This book illustrates many of them. Wright scholar Lind (Frank Lloyd Wright's First Houses, Pomegranate, 1996) has done a masterly job of researching and recording in detailed narrative and photographs (some rare and unusual) these vanished works. Beyond the value of these descriptions and images to both interested lay readers and scholars, the book leaves the reader with an immense feeling of masterpieces lost-a feeling compounded by the list of Wrightian buildings for which there are no known photographs or detailed descriptions. This clarion call for greater awareness of the shameful destruction of an important chapter in Americana belongs in collections interested in Wright's architecture or in historic preservation.-Glenn Masuchika, Chaminade Univ. Lib., Honolulu
School Library Journal
YA This well-written summary of the lost architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright is arranged thematically, enabling students to make comparisons between similar buildings, e.g., houses, offices, apartments, etc. The readable text includes short anecdotes and interesting asides about Wright's style and personality. Having some architectural background is helpful, but not required as the author provides a short introduction to each section. A concise, but detailed description of each structure is presented with information about location, construction, function, and destruction. The buildings are brought to life one more time through the text and the excellent photography. Although many of the pictures are old black-and-white family snapshots, they have been enhanced, excellently reproduced, and artistically displayed. Unfortunately, a few of the photographs are placed in the gutter, making it nearly impossible to see the building. The author's purpose to relive the genius of Wright and to appreciate the architecture that once existed has been fully realized. Myra Tabish, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA

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Product Details

Pomegranate Art Books, Incorporated
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9.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

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Chapter 1


Spaces under Frank Lloyd Wright's control -- his own homes and properties as well as those he rented -- were always in a state of flux and most susceptible to loss. During his life nearly continuous changes were made in response to new artistic inspiration or the evolving needs of his family and the Taliesin Fellowship, the group of apprentices who studied and resided with him. The places where he lived and worked were living organisms, responding to the conditions they encountered. Wright was in fact his own biggest client. Using his homes as laboratories, he experimented and experimented and experimented. Each place he lived after he left Oak Park in 1909 was not just his home but a complex of buildings designed to accommodate the needs of a community of individuals who lived and worked together. During his last twenty-seven years, Wright's fondness for change was facilitated by the existence of the Fellowship, which provided a steady pool of cheap labor eager to "learn by doing."

Not all changes were voluntary. Fire, which seemed to plague Wright throughout his long life, ravaged his Wisconsin home, Taliesin (1911-59) (left), three times. After each disaster he responded defiantly to the challenge and seized the opportunity to create yet another imaginative space for his own use. Rather than melting his spirit, fire seemed to temper his steel.

Only major changes to Wright's properties -- those that resulted in the loss of an entire structure or wing -- are presented here. Omitted are a number of small utility structures at Taliesin that deteriorated or became obsolete and were subsequently torn down;these include an old wash house, a machine shed, pig pens, and the carriage house behind Tanyderi, the home of Wright's sister Jane Porter. Although some spaces had outlived their usefulness and were simply eliminated, others were replaced with new designs. By tracking the buildings that were discarded by Wright or otherwise destroyed, it is possible to get a closer, behind-the-scenes look at the life of this inventive architect as he met the challenges of a vital yet turbulent seventy-year career. For one whose life and work were synonymous, the fallen buildings left in Wright's personal wake begin to tell his story.


Wright's aunts, the innovative educators Nell and Jane Lloyd Jones, retained their twenty-year-old nephew in 1887 to design this school, which they established on their parents' homestead. The progressive boarding school was rooted in the lessons of nature and was open to boys and girls. Many years later Wright's two oldest sons would attend Hillside Home, making the twohundred-mile journey from their home in Oak Park, Illinois, on horseback.

The building's design drew on the work of the Chicago architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee, who had been commissioned the same year by Wright's uncle, the prominent Rev. Jenkin Lloyd Jones, to design his All Souls Church in Chicago as well as the family chapel (1886) in Spring Green. Wright had supervised the chapel's construction and would eventually work for Silsbee when he moved to Chicago. The Shingle Style, which Silsbee brought to the Midwest from the East, appealed to the transcendental aesthetics of the Lloyd Jones clan and became the basis for Wright's own first home in Oak Park (1889-98).

In 1902 Wright designed another school building with classrooms and a gymnasium, but his aunts continued to live in the older building. When the school closed in 1915, Wright took over the property, allowing the aunts and his mother, Anna Lloyd Wright, to live there if they wished, but it was mostly abandoned.

After their deaths Wright repeatedly tried to alter the original shingled school to fit the Prairie Style profile of his newer building. The Victorian wainscoted rooms were converted into several apartments, connected by a bridge to the main building, and used by young Taliesin apprentices in the 1940s. Wright had the shingles removed and the roof flattened and, awaiting an inspired solution, left it covered with tar paper for many years. But it was just too tall. Finally, it became an unbearable eyesore, and in 1950 he had it demolished, the fine oak flooring recycled into dining tables and shelving.


Seeking to begin a new chapter in his life, Wright left his family in Oak Park in 1909 and resided in Europe for a year. When he returned he established a new home in Wisconsin that he shared with his lover, Mamah Borthwick Cheney, a former client. Like the hill towns he admired in Tuscany, his new complex would be a hilltop refuge, complete with a tower.

Initially referred to as a cottage for his mother, Taliesin I was constructed on thirty-one acres adjoining his sister Jane Porter's property in Spring Green in Wright's beloved Wisconsin River valley, where his ancestors had settled. His house, built of plaster, wood, and stone from a nearby quarry, was called Taliesin after a Welsh poet whose name meant "shining brow." Wrapping around the crest and into the slope of a large hill near his grandfather's homestead, it marked a return to the landscape that he had learned to love as a boy.

The driveway curled around the house, passing through stone piers between the hill and the residence. With its sculptures, pool, terraces, and stone walls, the garden was an integral continuation of the building's design. The entry was hidden within a sheltered stone loggia, establishing an intimate welcome. Perpendicular to the residential wing, which included a master bedroom suite, a guest room, two bathrooms, the kitchen, and the living-dining room, was the long drafting studio. Beyond and perpendicular to that was the farm unit, with its anchoring tower. Each zone of the U-shaped complex was connected to the others by open terraces or courtyards. Wright hoped to make Taliesin self-sustaining as a farm, a home, and an architectural studio, integrating and unifying all aspects of his life.

Inside the residential wing and studio, huge stone fireplaces served as the focal points of the main rooms, while panoramic views of the valley through ribbons of casement windows energized the spaces. Wright had taken elements of his Prairie Style concepts, enriched them with his European experiences, and produced an intimate and imaginative retreat that reflected his new-found freedom -- his first natural house.

One afternoon in August 1914 Wright's new life suffered a terrible setback when a crazed houseman served lunch and then set fire to the house, murdering seven people with an axe as they tried to flee. Wright, working in Chicago at Midway Gardens, was called home to find Mamah Cheney, her two children, and four employees dead and his home partially destroyed. As he wrote in Liberty magazine in 1929, "In 30 minutes it had burned to the stonework or to the ground. The living half of Taliesin violently swept down in a madman's nightmare of flame and murder."


Ever resilient, Wright immediately rebuilt his house after the 1914 fire and tried to put his life back together. Although only the residential portion had been destroyed, Wright used the opportunity to make alterations to all parts of the complex, enlarging and adapting them to suit his expanding vision. The new house fell short of his ideal plans, but such was the reality of the everevolving Taliesin.

The rebuilding of Taliesin I to create Taliesin II was undertaken using the same materials -- limestone, plaster, and wood -- but the execution was more refined and less rustic than the earlier version. The masonry masses that survived were reworked so that the fireplaces received new mantel stones. Elevations became more complex. The rooflines of the living room and the studio were changed. In place of its pitched ceilings, the living room gained a recessed panel and t

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Meet the Author

Author of The Wright Style (Simon & Schuster) and the Wright at a Glance series, Carla Lind has worked to preserve Frank Lloyd Wright's legacy for two decades. She has directed the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. She now teaches in the graduate historic preservation program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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