By Monica Alonzo
By Ray Stern
By New Times Staff
By Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Robrt L. Pela
Wright was in Chicago, overseeing the finishing touches on his Midway Gardens, an ambitious, open-air restaurant and entertainment park, when Carleton went on his rampage. After learning the news, Wright traveled back to Taliesin, sharing a private train car with Ed Cheney, the cuckolded husband of Wright's lover. In his eccentric memoir of his father, John Lloyd Wright reported that Cheney consoled Wright during the trip back and had breakfast with the architect the next morning. He left his wife's body with Wright, to be buried on the Taliesin grounds.
It would be eight more years before Wright would finally be granted a divorce by his first wife, Catherine. A year later, in 1923, he entered a disastrous, short-lived marriage with a woman named Miriam Noel, from whom he separated after a matter of months. In 1924, he met Oglivanna Lazovich Hinzenberg at the ballet in Chicago.
Oglivanna, 30 years younger than Wright, had been born in the tiny, central European principality of Montenegro. Her father had served as chief justice of the Montenegro supreme court, and her mother was the daughter of a famous general. Because her father's eyesight was poor, Oglivanna spent much of her youth reading him legal briefs, as well as works of literature and philosophy. In 1917, she married a Russian architect, Vlademar Hinzenberg, and gave birth to her first daughter, Svetlana.
The marriage was a failure. Soon after Svetlana was born, Oglivanna met the philosopher Georgei Gurdjieff, and soon made her way to his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, outside Paris. Gurdjieff, a shadowy figure, combined elements of Sufi, Zen Buddhism and other shamanistic teachings into a set of beliefs he called "The Work." Gurdjieff employed dance, art, music philosophy and arduous physical labor to obtain inner enlightenment through self-discipline and sacrifice. Later, Oglivanna would incorporate much of Gurdjieff's philosophy into Taliesin.
Almost immediately, Wright would move Oglivanna into his home, telling inquisitive neighbors and reporters she was his "housekeeper"--a transparent ploy, since he had done the same thing with Miriam Noel before marrying her.
Miriam did not go gentle. She sought to have Oglivanna deported, and several times managed to have Wright arrested for violating the Mann Act. For four years, Miriam hounded Wright around the country, until he was finally able to obtain a divorce in 1928. During those years, Taliesin once again burned, and Oglivanna gave birth to Iovanna--Oglivanna's second child and Wright's seventh. The lovers finally married on August 25, 1928.
By that time, however, Wright's career as an architect was in shambles. He was almost 60 years old, and his legal and financial troubles--Wright was never a conscientious businessman--had all but destroyed his practice. Holed up in the rebuilt Taliesin with Oglivanna and a few loyal apprentices, he scraped by on his reputation, earning a few hundred dollars at a time for delivering lectures or writing magazine articles.
But when things seemed bleakest, an escape hatch appeared. There was work in Arizona.
@body:In February 1928, Albert Chase McArthur offered Wright a $1,000-a-month salary to "consult" on the construction of the Arizona Biltmore hotel. In addition to this seven-month contract, Wright would receive an additional $7,000 when the hotel opened.
McArthur, the architect of record on the project, had been an apprentice to Wright at Wright's Oak Park studio in 1908 and 1909. McArthur's brothers, owners of an automobile dealership, had purchased several hundred acres of what was then desert eight miles northeast of downtown Phoenix, and were determined to build a world-class resort hotel. The McArthurs had been impressed by Wright's Imperial hotel--reputedly, the only major building in Tokyo to survive the 1923 earthquake with no structural damage.
There was another reason Albert McArthur hired Wright: McArthur intended to construct the hotel from concrete blocks manufactured on the site. Wright had successfully used this system in California, and McArthur assured his brothers and other financial backers of the project that Wright had patented the system.
In 1930, however, a Los Angeles man claimed that the textile-block system employed in the building of the Biltmore violated his patent; when Wright was questioned about the claim, he cheerfully admitted he had never gotten around to patenting the method he licensed McArthur to use. While Wright publicly credited McArthur with the design of the hotel at the time--and the Biltmore's brochures still insist that McArthur was the architect--the horizontal lines and art-deco detailing of the building have long led to speculation that Wright actually designed it. After McArthur died in 1951, Wright did little to discourage that idea.
On October 21, 1957, after a speech in Detroit, a member of the audience asked him directly if he had designed the Biltmore. Wright did not equivocate in his answer.
"This lady wants to know if I designed the Arizona Biltmore hotel, and I did," he said. "I spent a whole year at it. There was a young student of mine who had the commission. He never built anything but a house, so they sent for me to help out and I helped out. So that is the Arizona Biltmore."
Concurrent with his work on the Biltmore, Wright was engaged in drawing up a luxury resort at the behest of Alexander Chandler, the veterinarian who founded and lent his name to the southeast Valley municipality. Planned for the south face of South Mountain, San Marcos-in-the-Desert would also have used the textile-block construction system employed on the Biltmore. In January 1928, Wright and his entourage--the handful of apprentices and draftsmen who prefigured the Taliesin Fellowship--arrived in Chandler. When Wright realized that the cost of adequate lodging was prohibitive, he prevailed upon Chandler to lend his crew a portion of land on which to construct a camp. Wright's "boys" built offices, living quarters and even a small electrical plant. They lived there from late January to late June, while Wright refined his plans for San Marcos-in-the-Desert and commuted to the Biltmore. With the stock-market crash of October 1929, Chandler was forced to put off his plans for the resort.
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