From the way we build to the way we live, Frank Lloyd Wright's influence on American architecture is visible all around us. Now, Ada Louise Huxtable, the Pulitzer Prize- winning architecture writer for The Wall Street Journaland chief architecture critic for The New York Times for nearly twenty yearsoffers an outstanding look at the architect and the man. She explores the sources of his tumultuous and troubled life and his long career as master builder as well as his search for lasting, true love. Along the way, Huxtable introduces readers to Wright's masterpieces: Taliesin, rebuilt after tragedy and murder; the Imperial Hotel, one of the few structures left standing after Japan's catastrophic 1923 earthquake; and tranquil Fallingwater, to which millions have traveled to experience its quiet grace. Through the journey, Huxtable takes us not only into the mind of the man who drew the blueprints, but also into the very heart of the medium, which he changed forever. A story of great triumph and heartbreak, Frank Lloyd Wright is, like Wright's own creations, an expertly wrought tribute to a man whose genius lives on in the very landscape of American architecture.
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About the Author
Ada Louise Huxtable is a Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic. She is the author of several books, including Inventing Reality, Pier Luigi Nervi, and, most recently, The Unreal American.
A MacArthur fellow, Huxtable is the architecture critic of The Wall Street Journal and was the architecture critic for The New York Times from 1963 to 1982.
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THERE ARE TWO LIVES of Frank Lloyd Wright: the one he created and the one he lived. The first, his own embellished version, is the standard Wright mythologythe architect as maverick genius and embattled, misunderstood loner, the visionary crusader out of step with ordinary mortals, carrying his banner of “truth against the world”a character and scenario worthy of a prime-time docudrama. One marvels at the absolute confidence with which Wright manipulated facts to suit the person he wanted, and believed himself, to be. The life as he presented it is, in itself, a creative act.
As more documents and details became available to scholars with the opening of the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives almost thirty years after Wright's death, a series of publications appeared that were devoted to sorting out a long life full of outrageous claims and scandalous behavior. Everything questionable or shameful has been aired in the rush to historical revisionism and psychobiography; the literature is rich in the revelations that prove great artists, like the less gifted, are capable of doing bad things.
The record now stands assiduously and eloquently corrected. The most significant findings, however, are the ones that have increased our understanding of Wright's creative processes. Beyond the determination of what was true and what was false, Wright scholars have been seeking something elsethe elusive reality of the extraordinary man who was arguably America's greatest architect, whose work and influence have had an impact on an amazing three centuries of radical change in art, ideas, and technology. Born just after the Civil War into a bucolic horse-and-buggy world, Wright died shortly before his ninety-second birthday, at the start of the Space Age. It is hard to grasp both the length of his career and the extent of the revolution that took place during the six decades of his practice. He never saw an electric light until he went to Chicago as a young man looking for a job. He continued to sharpen by hand the pencils that he used for his delicately colored renderings, as fashions in drawing moved on to the quick bold strokes of the Magic Marker and slickly impersonal computer-generated images.
The facts of his life are not enough to explain the paradox of an architect who held fast to the nineteenth-century views he grew up with, who clung stubbornly to the romantic moralities of Emerson and Ruskin, while he broke with every convention in his work. How does one reconcile the lifelong embrace of a philosophy already out of date by the early years of the twentieth century with buildings that remain relevant and contemporary, vibrant and alive? Wright's geniuswhich he proclaimed loudly and often, in what seems less an exaggerated act of bravado as time goes on and history is revisitedremains constant, timeless, and prophetic. Each succeeding generation finds new areas of relevance in his work; he still has lessons to teach.
As the facts emerged, it became clear that reality trumps the mythology being laid to rest. You would not dare invent Wright's life; it is too melodramatic. He survived scandal, murder, fires, divorces, bankruptcy, social ostracism, and pursuit by the FBI for offenses ranging from violation of the Mann Act, for transporting a woman across state lines for immoral purposes (twice, and in the appropriate sequence, each “victim” became his wife), to accusations under the Sedition Act of allegedly encouraging his apprentices to refuse military service during World War II. He lived large and on the edge; to the worst blows of fate he added troubles of his own making. One marvels at the strength and persistence that were required to rebuild his life and practice after each defeat or disaster. He did less well with his personal reputation, but seemed to enjoy and even flaunt his role as outcast and outsider; it becomes clear how necessary that outsize ego really was. At an age when most men retire, he charged into the magnificent creative renaissance of his old age.
By the standards of his contemporaries, he led a shockingly unconventional and thoroughly reprehensible life. He was considered morally and fiscally irresponsible, a view he encouraged with illicit romantic liaisons and perpetually unpaid bills. He made whatever promises and accommodations were necessary as the occasion and his art required. Shame was not an emotion he entertained. He could charm endless advances out of clients' pockets, writing marvelously witty and wheedling letters, while buildings went over budget and out of control. Guile, at the very least, was essential to a lifestyle that was incompatible with solvency, but was also required if he was to build at all. It is hard to realize how strange his work must have seemed in the early 1900s, how unlike anything else and how totally out of step with prevailing taste, how offensive even to conventional neighbors on those suburban lots who considered his houses so peculiar they called them “harems.” Clients were scarce and resistant; they had to be as boldly visionary as the architect or be seduced into patronage. He was a master of the art.
The denial of any sources or influences other than his own ideas was one of his most assiduously practiced deceptions. Scholars have established that he was an avid consumer of art and architectural cultures, from pre-history to the avant-garde. We have learned that he was an early, active participant in the exchange of information with his European colleagues, although he maintained throughout his life that he was the sole inventor of modernism. He took an adversarial stand against the International style, in part because he did not share its theories or conform to its doctrinaire principles, but also because dissent suited him so well. He saw himself as the sole possessor and defender of a higher architectural truth, a role he played to the hilt, to the end.
Facts alone are limited in what they can reveal. It takes both the corrected and the doctored versions of the life to give us the full picture of the gifted and fallible person behind the carefully constructed pose and skillfully revised events. What is too easily forgotten is that the art supported by Wright's wileswhether out of temperament or necessityhas unassailable and enduring integrity. The dismantling of the legend has no effect on this ultimate reality. In the end, art is truth, as sententious as that sounds, or as close to it as we get, and the truth of the man is in the work. The buildings convey the deepest convictions and most authentic expression of the artist; there is nothing duplicitous about them. They tell us the meaning of the life and what it was lived for. This personal view is an attempt to fit the man and his work together through his story, to explore those currents of art and life that he synthesized so brilliantly to change architecture, and how we see it, forever.
THE LIFE STARTS with a lie: a changed birth date, from 1867 to 1869, the sort of small, white vanity lie usually embraced by women but common also among men. Like most age changes, it was done later in life. Two years hardly seem worth the trouble for all the chronological complications such things cause. In Frank Lloyd Wright's case, it had the desired effectit made a case for a precocious talent with an impressively youthful, early success in Chicago in the 1890s, and it kept him shy of the dreaded 90-mark during his brilliant late work in the 1950s. Wright was just two months away from his ninety-second birthday when he died in April 1959, a fact successfully evaded by this small subterfuge. If no one was the wiser, the true date was easy enough to find, once scholars tried. The change did no harm to anyone, although it annoyed his sister Jane all during her lifetime, since it was her birth year that Wright usurped.
There is even some ambiguity about his name. Family records indicate that he was christened Frank Lincoln Wright when he was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin, on June 8, 1867, although the family name Lloyd seems to have been quickly substituted. Lincoln was one of the most popular names in America at the time, and his mother's family, the Lloyd Joneses, who had come to Wisconsin in search of land and religious freedom as part of the Welsh emigration of the 1840s, were pro-Union and antislavery, like most of the Welsh community. It is not at all unlikely that he bore the name Lincoln briefly in honor of the Civil War president. Frank was one of three children born to Anna Lloyd Wright and William Russell Cary Wright, a widower who brought three children of his own to a troubled marriage that ended in divorce in 1885. Wright's younger sisters, Jane (later known as Jennie) and Maginel (Margaret Ellen, who became Maggie Nell and then Maginel), arrived before Anna denied William her conjugal and domestic services to focus solely on her son, whom she believed to be destined for greatness. From the provision of the right prenatal influences to lifelong support and sacrifice, she dedicated herself to seeing that he achieved it.
The marriage, in 1866, was a late and probably desperate one for Anna, one of ten children born to Richard Lloyd Jones and Mary (Mallie) Thomas Lloyd Jones, who left Wales in 1844 for the promise of cheap, abundant farmland in the American Middle West. Anna was in her midtwenties when she met William, and a thirtieth birthday was not far off, after which she would have been consigned to the common nineteenth-century role of spinster teacher for the rest of her life. Teaching was one of the very few respectable ways a woman could earn a living, and she had been traveling to various Wisconsin communities, riding horseback to country schools, remembered for her abundant dark hair and the brass-buttoned military coat she wore in bad weather. We are told that she was tall and walked freely, like a man.
If Anna needed to marry, William Wright needed a caretaker for his motherless children. A handsome, agreeable man of slight build, with fine, delicate features, he was a gifted musician, orator, and sometime preacher who had been admitted to the bar in 1857. He was warmly received wherever he went, and he moved often. He seems to have left the law to preach at a series of Baptist churches, where he quickly assumed an active social and political role in the community. The local newspaper invariably lauded his talents and social skills, and expressed sincere regret when he departed. The Lloyd Joneses revered education, and William must have appealed to Anna as a man knowledgeable in music, literature, and the law. He was shorter than his wife, who came from a family of tall, physically impressive, abundantly bearded, deeply religious, hardworking farmers and preachers, but what he lacked in stature he made up in erudition and charm.
After making his peripatetic way from New England in 1859, William had settled in Wisconsin with his first wife, Permelia, who died shortly after giving birth to their third child. Anna was teaching school in the area and boarding with the family at the time; the death of William's first wife evidently opened the door to romance, or at least to opportunity. The marriage was to take Anna and a household that grew to six children to New England and back again through a series of failed ambitions and doomed pastoratesMcGregor, Iowa, in 1869, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in 1871, and Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 1874, and back to Madison, Wisconsin, in 1877. It did not help the marriage that the 1870s was a time of deep national depression, which meant the pastor was often unpaid. But with all of his talents, William was apparently unable to make a living; he could neither earn nor handle money. Frank recalled a house often without cash or food, where parishioners of whatever apparently bankrupt church William currently headed would hold “donation parties” that yielded pathetically little. He claimed to remember one that left nothing but twenty-nine pumpkin pies. Each congregation would beg William not to go, and the next place would prove no better.
The return to Wisconsin was probably encouraged and helped by Anna's family, now comfortably established on profitable small farms around Hillside and Spring Green, on the Wisconsin River. Anna rejoined the tight-knit family of the Uncles and the Aunts, as they were known, who would make up the young Wright's world. Life had made the Uncles cautious, practical men. The family's slow, hard journey from Wales to the Middle West had been marked by poverty, hunger, and tragedy, interrupted and delayed by the need to work along the way. One young child fell ill and died en route and had to be buried along the roadside in an unknown grave. Those stern, industrious Welshmen must have found William's misfortunes hard to excuse or to bear. After the family's return from Weymouth, Uncle James drove his wagon the forty miles from his farm to the Wright house in Madison, with a cow tied behind, “so Anna's children could have good fresh milk.” Turning to the faith of the Lloyd Joneses, Unitarianism, William received an appointment to a Unitarian church, but the position proved no more successful than the others. In today's critical assessment, and no doubt in the minds of the Uncles, William was a loser, and Anna would be better off without him.
The marriage lasted about seven more stress-filled years, worsening as William retreated into despair. “Failure after failure added to failure,” Wright wrote in his Autobiography, led to an “inveterate and desperate withdrawal...into the arid life of his studies, his books, and his music, where he was oblivious of all else.” The retreat no doubt also served as a refuge from his alienated wife, who was neither patient nor long suffering as she saw her dreams disappear. Frank was eighteen when the break finally took place. The conventional wisdom and the Wright mythology, supported by Wright's own account, have maintained that William abandoned Anna. The court records of the divorce, found in Madison by historian Thomas S. Hines and published in the Wisconsin Magazine of History in 1967, the centenary of Wright's birth, tell a different story. When the Lloyd Joneses realized that the marriage could not be salvaged, they offered to support Anna and the children if William would leave. Hardly in a position to argue, he agreed to give Anna the house and furnishings and go away; he may even have been secretly relieved.
These proceedings yield Wright's real birth date, which is confirmed by census records and high school documents, and a sad and sordid account of domestic discord. Court documents reveal that it was William who instigated divorce proceedings against Anna, detailing years of what he described as spousal abuse. It was William who claimed to be the deserted partner. Not only had Anna refused to share his bed“for two years she has protested against and refused me intercourse as between husband and wife”but she also “wanted more money than I could furnish.” In any discussion of their desperate finances she would become “violently angry,” and if the beleaguered William objected to her extravagance (although one wonders, under the circumstances, how extravagant she could be), “she would resent any questions about economy.” Other wifely duties were withheld. “A large part of my mending I did myself or carried away because when I requested her to do anything it was often neglected...[or] when it was done, often threwn [sic] in my face or on the floor....She told me 'I hate the very ground you walk on.'” With Anna's admission “that she had no love for her husband,” the court concluded that “all of the allegations of the complaint are true.” It would have been an extraordinary ploy for William to invent these demeaning hardships in order to be free.
Clearly, Anna made her husband miserable and behaved abominably. But even a kinder, more understanding woman would have been driven to exhaustion and desperation by the unstable household, the constant lack of resources, the unrelieved poverty and anxiety that she could see ahead of her for the rest of her life. Anna was an educated, ambitious woman, with literary and cultural aspirations far above domestic drudgery. She had been trapped in the domestic trivia of raising six children with endless mind-numbing and backbreaking work, without any compensating comfort or security, in abject and constant need. Charm, music, and fine oratory were not enough. She obviously hated her life; stressed beyond endurance, she frequently lost control. William's mending must have been the last straw in a day of escalating chores. Although her actions speak to something cold, and even cruel, in her nature, she was clearly bitterly disappointed in her marriage and unwilling to add more children to the brood. When move after move failed to improve their condition, even hope seemed futile. What was really inexcusable beyond the violence, or the way she treated her husband and the childrenwas her championship of her children against his from his first marriage, and her single-minded devotion to her son. From the time he was conceived, she made up her mind that he would be an architect. She hung the right pictures, played the right music, and thought the right thoughts to influence the unborn child. He would deliver her from the despair and hardship of her life, make up for her thwarted ambitions; they would have a golden future together.
In his account of the breakup of the marriage, written years later, after his mother's death, Wright accepted her claim of abandonment, although he had to have been keenly aware of what was really going on. Her version was probably the only acceptable story at a time when a divorced woman's place in society was somewhere between polite ostracism and total disgrace. If he knew the truth, why didn't he tell it, almost a decade after she was gone? Was the memory of a deeply disturbed and obviously unhappy childhood too painful to revisit? Whatever his motivation, it seems unlikely that he would have willingly revealed those traumatic early years. Forms had to be observed and reputations mattered; the time had not yet come for popular soul- bearing confessions and poisonous, mommy-dearest revelations. When he wrote about the divorce in the Autobiography, he said “that he never got the heavy thing straight.” This was probably not the calculated evasion that some have made it out to be. The children of acrimonious divorce carry a load of conflicted loyalties, of grief and guilt; they never get “the heavy thing straight.” He let his mother's story stand, consciously no doubt, and perhaps opportunistically as well; it would also be the most acceptable one, and he reinforced it with his own claim of alienation from his father.
The truth, as usual, was more complex. In that home, dominated by the mother's anger and resentment, it would have been difficult or foolhardy to take sides. Favored and protected by his mother, he could not have forged a close and lasting bond with a father who sought refuge from his wife's abuse by retreating from his family. The Lloyd Joneses had closed ranks to rescue Anna from a failed marriage; it would have been unthinkable for him to stand alone against them. There was no question about where his loyalties lay. William left with only his clothes and his violin, and there was never any contact between father and son again.
After the divorce, William seems to have been in perpetual motion, moving back and forth, from Nebraska to Missouri and Iowa, and finally to the home of a son by his first marriage, near Pittsburgh, where he died in 1904. In the last part of his life, he passed through twenty towns and seven states. The children of his first family remembered a sweet and cheerful man reduced to depression and despondency with the continuous downward spiral of his life. Those who saw Anna as the unfortunate victim of a bad marriage dismissed him as a self-centered dreamer pursuing personal fulfillment. It is more likely that he was a charming and impractical man whose real virtues and abilities lay in the music and literature he loved, pursuing an elusive livelihood in an unremunerative profession in hard times, with none of the survival skills later perfected by his son. When William was buried in Wisconsin with his first wife, Frank did not attend the funeral; it is known, however, that he made solitary visits to the grave in later years. One can read in Wright's memoirs the mixed memories of the father who grew more remote, the two joined only by the music they shared.
But Frank was clearly William's son. He had his father's fine looks and his small staturehe always claimed 5 feet 81?2 inches, which may have been a stretch (he was closer to 5 feet 7 and occasionally wore built-up heels). His easy charm came from his father, and so did his musical ability and abiding love of music. He told the tale of pumping an organ, to the point of total exhaustion, while his father played on, unconscious of the son's fatiguehis carelessness with the boy the source of another fight with Anna. Whatever else was lacking in his youth, and it was almost everything, there was always a piano, and for Frank, in the future, there would always be a pianoin Tokyo during the construction of the Imperial Hotel, in the Arizona desert at his winter camp, in the suite at the Plaza hotel that he kept in New York when he built the Guggenheim Museum.
One suspects that the breadth of his sensibilities as an artist, photographer, and designer of furniture, graphics, books, and all the elements of his buildings, his patronage of Chinese and Japanese art, his obsession with every aspect of his surroundings, his dedicated collecting of beautiful things, owed much to his father, who could never afford more than the books to which he retired in defeat. Wright could not afford these things eitherhis resources were always subsumed by his self-indulgencesbut he bought anyway, running up debts with lordly unconcern. He would use his fees to buy works of art instead of paying his bills. The financial brinkmanship that the son displayed throughout his life equaled and surpassed his father's economic woes, but he made extravagance an art form.
Wright's relationship with his mother was one of mutual dependence; she would accept his transgressions, tolerate his lapses, and stay close to him until she died. He makes the repeated observation that she always “understood.” When an overactive imagination led to an invitation to schoolmates for a party that existed only in his own mind, she made instant molasses candy and produced popcorn and cookies. Later, there would be tacit and total acceptance of far more serious indiscretions. She bought the land for the first Taliesin, the home built for his mistress after he abandoned his wife; her generosity brought him back to the family valley, and the house he would build there would inevitably have a place for her. She tolerated and lived with subsequent mistresses and wives. She traveled to Japan in her eighties to care for him when he was ill, even though he had another woman by his side. He could count on her sympathy when the rest of the world considered him an outcast. She was always there, through guile, persistence, uncritical devotion, and sheer determinationthat eternal motivational mix called mother love. She co-opted his loyalty through single-minded possessiveness and support.
He must have been deeply affected by the insecure, impoverished, unhappy household of his childhood, although he describes evenings around the piano during the Madison years, before the divorce, laughing and singing the Gilbert and Sullivan songs that were then the rage. In his Autobiography, he walks a careful line between describing the trials and hardships of a seriously troubled home, and painting a warm picture of old-fashioned nineteenth-century family pleasures. But there is a less attractive account of family life given by William's daughter by his first marriage, Elizabeth, who called Anna a cruel and abusive stepmother. She tells in her diary of a horrifying experience, when Anna, standing at the stove, hit and burned her in a fit of anger, and of being rescued, screaming, by her father. The children he brought with him were eventually sent to his relatives for care. Anna's tantrums were severe enough for William to make inquiries to her family about her mental condition. Some later observers believe that she was emotionally unstable, and the severest of her critics, Wright biographer Brendan Gill, was convinced that she was slightly mad. Given her temperament, frustrated ideals, and the stresses of an emotionally and financially doomed marriage, it is more likely that she was driven into bitter and furious rages through disappointment and unrelenting fatigue.
This gives us some reason to believe that Wright's presentation of a patient, sainted mother as guardian angel of his futurepursuing prenatal architectural influences by putting tastefully oak- framed engravings of English cathedrals on his nursery walls in her determination that he should become an Architect (always capitalized in the Autobiography, but so is Mother)was romanticized and embroidered with willful hindsight by her son. That is, if she did any such thing; it has been suggested by those busily engaged in questioning the legends of his life that it would have been more likely, at that time and in those straitened circumstances, that the newborn's cradle would simply have shared the parents' room, and Edgar Kaufmann Jr., whose father commissioned Fallingwater, Wright's masterpiece of the 1930s, the great house over the waterfall in the Pennsylvania woods, questioned whether there would have been any money for frames. The pictures could have been cut from the easily available Harper's Weekly. But the scholarly rush to “truth” underestimates Anna: she would have managed the framesFrank remembered framed pictures in his boyhood homesand arranged for her son to have his own space. Let her have the cathedrals; she probably found a way.
After the family returned to Madison, Anna apparently decided that her son's carefully nurtured artistic sensibilities might have gone a bit overboard. Unlike the large, robust Lloyd Jones men, Frank was a small, solitary child content to read, draw, listen to music, and “make things,” daydreaming and following his own pursuits. Although she had encouraged his aesthetic interests, dressed him in velvet suits, and cried when she cut off his curls, she may have had some fears for his masculinity, or at least felt that even an Architect needed a bit of hard work and a dose of reality. When he was eleven years old, she decided a little corrective therapy was needed. The Uncles were consulted and a solution was found; Frank would spend his summers helping on Uncle James's farm. As Uncle James noted, the boy “had as much muscle as a blackbird's got in his leg.”
At the time, Frank dreaded and despised those summers; his memories were of backbreaking tasks and he recoiled from the gross aspects of animal husbandry. While there was much solace in the fields and woods, where he would steal time until recalled to his tasks, he found farm life demeaning and distasteful. For the next five summers, he endured what he described as a living hell of hard work, where he learned to “pile tired on tired,” as he was constantly required to do by rigorous Lloyd Jones standards, “adding it again...and again.” He would count the days until September and his return to Madison and school. But he developed work habits and stamina that stayed with him; in his fifties, and even in his eighties, he would exhaust his young staff, urging them to “pile tired on tired.” For the rest of his life, he would refer to himself as a farmer, although he would see to it that the farm he established at his Wisconsin home, Taliesin, was worked by others; the live-in apprentices of the Fellowship he established in the 1930s, who paid for instruction in the great man's studio, also labored and brought forth the crops, while he rode grandly by on horseback, the epitome of the gentleman landowner.
He described the detested summer routine with almost total recall more than forty years later in the Autobiography. But let him tell it himselfhe does it so well. He wrote in the third person, but the tone is intensely immediate throughout. He would arrive at the farm, to be installed in the same white attic room with one small window, heated by a stovepipe from below. At four in the morning: “Sharp rapping on the stovepipeloud. Again, sharper, louder,” and he would reach for the work clothes Uncle James provided, dressing to the rapping on the stovepipe“a hickory shirt, blue-jean overalls with blue cotton suspenders, coarse blue cotton socks, clumsy cowhide shoes with leather laces”the shoes and a hated hat soon discarded. A quick splash to his face with water in a basin drawn from a cistern by a bucket tied to a rope, and off to the barn, “where he dutifully began milking as shown, until his hands ached,” and “the strange smells sickened him.”
He learned the hazards of country lifethe cows that “would lean over and crush the breath out of you against the wall of the stall. Beating them over the back with the milking stool only made them push harder.” Bare feet in fresh cowpats. Washing the manure off the teats, pinging the milk into the pail, with an occasional spurt to the mouth, as taught by the hired man. Then breakfast, farm plentiful and revolting to the fastidious young aesthete. “Potatoes, fried. Fried cornmeal mush, fried pork, green cheese and cornbread. Pancakes and sorghum. Buttermilk and milk. Coffee and tea, but not for him.” Watching the “red-faced, yellow-haired hired man pour sorghum over his big piece of fat pork” would take his appetite away. He remembered the hired man's nameGottlieb. And with all the milk, there was never any cream.
Next, feeding the calves with Aunt Laura“teaching the crowding, pushing, bunting things to suck the milk by holding the fingers in the pail...a nasty business.” Then “carrying sticks of wood to the cross-cut saw.” Dinner“boiled fresh beef, boiled potatoes, carrots, turnips, homemade bread and butter, jam, pickles, prunes, sorghum, honey, green cheese, pie or cake.” Afternoon “holding the split oak rails while Uncle James nailed them to the fence-posts, hands full of slivers, going off to get the cows for the first time, at five. Home to supper at six. Fried potatoes, as regularly as the sun set. Homemade bread and butter. Cornbread, cornmeal mush, milk, honey, homemade preserves. Fried salt pork or smoked beef, creamed.” After supper, milking again. “In bed, about half-past seven, too tired to move.
“Again the outrageous banging on the stovepipe...the clothes sweat-stiffened. They went on stiff and stayed stiff...until limbered up by working in them....Endless, the care of the animals, horses, cows, pigs, sheep.” Currying and brushing the workhorses, cleaning the stables “under and behind them,” hitching and unhitching them, “putting them to the plow, harrows, seeders, markers, plankers, planters, cultivators and lumber wagons,”...“hauling fodder and boiling something...for the hogs...getting the heavy sows off their own little pigs,” alerted “by the infernal, heart-rending squeals....Sickened as you assisted at butchering by seeing the knife stuck deep in the fat-throat and the hot blood gushing and steaming from the one marked for family 'pork.' The smell of their yarddevastating!” Hens: “getting pecked by the lousy things. Getting covered with lice from them...striking off the heads of superfluous young roosters when their turn came to be eaten...throwing the flapping, convulsive fowl aside in its headless tumble over wood- pile and door-yard in frantic letting go of life....”
The harvesting of the grain, the bundling, hauling, and pitching of the hay, the rhythm of the motions still felt and described: “Aching muscles in the morning.” And then there were the mosquitoes “to pester him, and the flies to torture the cows. Cut-grass and nettles and poison ivy. And wasps and bumble bees. Hidden sticks and stumps to stub one's toes. Quicksand in the streams. And hornets' nests in the barn rafters.”
But there were also other things to learn, as he fetched the cows, so tired that he hung on to the one with the longest tail, or cut through meadows, or stole time in the woods. “He knew where the lady-slippers grew, and why...he could lead you surely to where Jack-in-the-Pulpit stood in the deep shade of the wood, to wild strawberries in the sunny clearings of the hills. To watercress in the cool streams flowing from hillside springs. He knew where the tall red lilies could be found afloat on the tall meadow grass....The choke cherry with its pendent blooms and black clusters of cherries that puckered your throat....The white birches gleaming. Wild grape in bloom festooning the trees and fences. Sumach with its braided foliage and dark red berry-cones. Herbs, and dripping leaves in rain. In the fields, milkweed blossoming, later scattering its fleece on every breeze. The sorrel reddening the fields....” And the boy things: “He would go catching sleek frogs or poking stupid toads. Catching crazy grasshoppers. Listening at night to the high treble of the frog-song. He delighted in devils' darning needles, and turtles, too.”
He evokes the sounds, sights, colors, beauty, and wonder of the summer world with an elegiac pleasure almost worthy of the Whittier or Lowell his mother read to him. But being Wright, he cannot resist turning it all into gorgeous grist for the future Architect: “He was studying unconsciously what later he would have called 'Style.'” And then, blending nature into architecture, making that connection between the physical and natural worlds with Olympian certainty and fuzzy abandon, “the boy was some day to learn that the secret of all the human styles in architecture was the same that gave character to trees.”
He ran away twice, brought back once by Uncle Enos, sent to look for him, to whom he poured out his tearful tale of fatigue, pain, and anguish, and once by Uncle James. He would hide in the hay barn all night while they called for him, feeling gratified and guilty to have turned his suffering into someone else's concern. His mother visited, and cried.
And then Sunday, blessed Sunday“salvation for the 'tired to tired' week.” A bath on Saturday night, water carried from the cistern, part heated on the stove. In the morning, he would put on his city clothes. The Aunts and Uncles would be seated in rockers on the platform of the small, shingled wooden family chapel, its pulpit covered with a cloth of purple velvet and wildflowers gathered by the children. They would have gone out early to bring back a wagon box full of branches of Frank's choosing. It was his delight to display them“broad masses of blooms and verdure freely arranged, pretty much as they grew...only more so.”
Wright never forgot the pleasure of those Sundays at church and the solidarity of family life going to the still cool woods in the early hours to gather those “tremendous riches” to place on the altar, a display indelibly entwined with a family at worship together. The memory was enhanced by the picnics that followed, each family wagon filled with baskets that carried far more than the standard daily fare: stuffed chickens, hard-boiled eggs, corn on the cob to be roasted, sandwiches and pickles, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers to be eaten in the hand with salt, sugared doughnuts, turnovers, cookies, gingerbread, and pies and cakes of all kinds. “Bright colored cloths would be spread on green grass in some cool selected spot...in the shade of beautiful trees...always near a spring or stream,” where the fresh milk would be set to cool.
Half a century later, Wright would call for picnics at Taliesin; the apprentices who spent as much time in the kitchen as at their drafting boards were expected to spread out the same kind of sumptuous repast on the same kind of gaily colored cloths, in the same meadows and hills, in nostalgic homage to the pleasures of childhood and family life, although Wright himself was never a good family man, and the way of life he recalled was gone forever.