Work Title: Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders
Work Author(s): William R. Drennan
University of Wisconsin Press
10 b/w photographs, 212 pages, Hardcover $29.95
Reviewer: Lynn Evarts
"Law and rules are made for the average...it is infinitely more difficult to live without rules, but that is what the really honest, sincere thinking man is compelled to do." With these words, Frank Lloyd Wright summarized what he saw as his place in the world, and this view is abundantly illustrated in the story of Wright's house, called Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wisconsin. When, in September of 1911, he left his wife and moved his married paramour, Mamah Borthwick Cheney, into the house, the neighbors in the small town thought they had seen it all. Little did they know that almost three years later, they would see the single most horrific act of mass murder in Wisconsin history overshadow Wright's shocking "love nest."
This is the story of Wright's rise to fame, his disregard for the social mores of the time, and the brutal murders of seven adults and children that dramatically impacted Wright in both his life and his work. The murders were committed by Julian Carlton, the African-American butler at Taliesin who felt that one of the construction laborers had insulted and abused him the day before. In the end, Taliesin was burned to the ground, and Mamah, her two children, and four laborers were dead, including the man who had insulted Julian. Wright was in Chicago at the time, working on the construction of Midway Gardens. Although the...