Little Bits of History

Taliesin I

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 15, 2014
Taliesan I i

Taliesin I

August 15, 1914: Taliesin I is destroyed. Frank Lloyd Wright, was an American architect who designed more than 1,000 structures, this house being one of them. He had been born in Wisconsin in 1867 and the property on which the house was built had belonged to his mother’s family. Wright attended a couple semesters at the University of Wisconsin – Madison but did not graduate. After the Chicago fire of 1871 there was much work to be done there and Wright found a place to first spread his wings. He married in 1889 and he designed their home in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. Mamah Borthwick (Cheney) met Mrs. Wright and Mr. Chaney commissioned Wright to built the Edwin H Cheney house. Borthwick and Wright each decided to leave their spouses and traveled to Europe. Borthwick divorced in 1911 but Wright’s wife would not grant him a divorce until 1922.

The scandal caused a disruption in Wright’s professional life. He built Taliesin for himself and his mistress and they moved in together in 1911. Built in the Prairie School design he had devised just a few years earlier, the house had three sections: two broad portions on either end and a narrow connection ground level corridor. Wright also designed the furniture for the home. One of the broad sections was used as Wright’s studio and workroom with a small apartment there used by Wright’s head draftsman. Wright and Borthwick lived in the other broad section with her two children. Wright struggled getting commissions because of the scandalous affair and some even called for his arrest for living immorally.

Part of the household staff was 31-year-old African-American Julian Carlton who worked as a chef. He claimed to be from Barbados. Carlton was initially genial but grew more paranoid with time and began staying up late holding a butcher knife and looking out the window. He was in a couple confrontations with draftsman Emil Brodelle and was given notice that this date would be his last day to work at Taliesin. Wright was in Chicago, working. Borthwick, her children, and the studio personnel would be waiting for lunch on the other side of the house. Around noon, Carlton took a hatchet and attacked Borthwick, killing her instantly. Her son was hacked to bits and her daughter tried to escape but was chased and also killed. He doused the bodies in gasoline and started a fire, setting the house ablaze.

Then, lighting a second fire under the other side of the house, Carlton waited for the other six residents to try to escape. Herbert Fritz manage to flee, but broke his arm. Brodelle was killed outright. William Weston was attacked but survived. His son and two other workers survived their attacks but died of their wounds days later. Carlton hid where he thought he could survive the fire but had hydrochloric acid with him to commit suicide if the heat became too great. He did swallow the acid but survived. Neighbors helped put out the fire although the house was destroyed. Carlton was taken into custody. The acid caused him to have difficulty swallowing and he died in jail 47 days later from starvation.

Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change.

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.

The truth is more important than the facts.

Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities. – all from Frank Lloyd Wright

Also on this day: Yasgur’s Farm – In 1969, Woodstock begins.
Requiem – In 1935, a plane crash killed Will Rogers and Wiley Post.
Military Precision – In 1995, Shannon Faulkner arrives at the Citadel.
Macbeth – In 1057, King Macbeth was killed.

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