Today in History

Today in History: June 8

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright
Wright, Frank Lloyd, portrait photograph,
Arnold Genthe, photographer, 1923.
Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

Wright sought universal meaning through attachment to place, varying his geometries not only to establish an indivisible bond with each specific location, but, more importantly, to complete that location's underlying structure.

David G. De Long,
Frank Lloyd Wright: Designs for an American Landscape, 1922-1932

Frank Lloyd Wright was born on June 8, 1867, in Richland Center, Wisconsin. Widely regarded as America's most significant architect, Wright transformed twentieth-century residential design; his influential Prairie School houses and plans for public buildings proved simultaneously innovative, aesthetically striking, and practical. A social visionary, Wright's commitment to a context-driven "organic architecture," which harmonized with both its occupants' needs and the surrounding landscape, underscored his creative genius across a long and productive career.

Trained briefly in engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Wright did not receive an academic degree, but instead learned his craft on the job. After holding several junior positions in Chicago architectural firms, in 1888, he found a mentor in master architect Louis Sullivan. Wright worked with Sullivan for about five years, and was Sullivan's chief assistant at the time he left to open his own firm in 1893.

Wright married Catherine Lee Tobin in 1889 and settled in Oak Park, Illinois, where before long the couple had six children. Oak Park was the site of many of Wright's early residential commissions and of his monumental Unity Temple (1904).

By the turn of the twentieth century, Frank Lloyd Wright had emerged as the leading practitioner of Prairie School architecture. Constructed primarily in the Midwest during the first two decades of the century, his Prairie School houses, like others of the style, are typically two-story open-plan structures with extended single-story wings that emphasize the horizontal. Other typical features include ribbon windows, gently sloping roofs, prominent overhangs, and hidden gardens.  Wright's interiors, also carefully designed, likewise stress horizontal lines, the texture of natural materials, and functional built-in components. Wright's Robie House (1906-10), lauded as the greatest achievement of his Prairie School work, drew considerable attention from European modernists in its time.

Frederick C. Robie House, Chicago, Illinois.
Frederick C. Robie House,
Photograph 2: South Facade from Southwest
5757 Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois,
Frank Lloyd Wright, architect,
Cervin Robinson, photographer, 1963.
Built in America, Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record, 1933-Present

By the 1910s, Wright was a highly-regarded architect of international renown. Yet, some much-publicized personal difficulties, including a love affair, a murder, and eventually two divorces, alienated potential clients. In these years he began work on his own home, Taliesin, an ever-expanding project located on the site of a family farm in rural Wisconsin. He spent much of the 1920s in Europe and Japan, working on projects such as the Tokyo Imperial Hotel (1915-1923). He also took on a number of large-scale, speculative ventures that combined his growing interest in advanced use of technology with an exploration of geometric form: some examples of these never-built projects are presented in Frank Lloyd Wright: Designs for an American Landscape, 1922-1932. In 1928, Wright's personal life stabilized with his marriage to Olgivanna Lazovich Hinzenberg.

Although Wright earned few commissions during this period, he lectured widely in the 1930s, published his Autobiography (1932), and expounded upon his philosophy of design in An Organic Architecture (1939). Responding to the decade's nationwide economic hardship, Wright not only founded the Taliesin Fellowship in 1932 to provide training to young architects, but also began to design a series of houses that he called Usonian, short for United States of North American. Derived from his earlier Prairie School structures, the Usonian houses were streamlined in design and construction, emphasized individuals in harmony with nature, and were modestly priced to bring modern comforts to a broad range of Americans. Designed to explore these same ideals, his Fallingwater (1935-39), a vacation home suspended above a waterfall as if carved from the rock, both enchanted the public and helped to reestablish his professional career.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Wright designed colleges, corporate headquarters, museums, and private homes, notable among these the spiraling form of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Frank Lloyd Wright died April 9, 1959. He was ninety-two years old and had just completed a design for a mile-high office building.

exterior view of a modern house with a waterfall
Photograph 87: Wide Angle View From Southwest of House as Seen From Crest of Lower Falls (The Classic View of Fallingwater),
State Route 381 (Stewart Township), Ohiopyle vicinity, Fayette County, Pennsylvania,
Frank Lloyd Wright, architect,
Jack Boucher, photographer, 1985.
Built in America, Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record, 1933-Present

Tennessee Secedes

Portrait of Pvt. Robert Patterson, Company D, 12th Tennessee Infantry, C.S.A
Portrait of Pvt. Robert Patterson,
Company D, 12th Tennessee Infantry, C.S.A.,
between 1860 and 1865.
Selected Civil War Photographs

Tennesseans voted in favor of secession by a large majority—102,172 to 47,238—on June 8, 1861. In the mountainous eastern part of the state, however, where few people owned slaves, voters opposed secession by a margin of more than two to one.

President Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson, a Southern Democrat who broke with his party over the issue of secession, hailed from eastern Tennessee. In May 1862, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Johnson as military governor of federally controlled Tennessee. Two years later, Johnson was selected as Lincoln's running mate.

A border state, Tennessee sent some of her sons into battle wearing the Confederate gray while others donned the Union blue. During the Civil War, important military engagements took place at Chattanooga and Nashville.

After the Civil War, delegates from across the state met in Nashville to shape a new constitution for Tennessee. To read more about this process see the Journal of the Proceedings of the Convention of Delegates Elected by the People of Tennessee, to Amend, Revise, or Form and Make a New Constitution, for the State which may be found by searching on the term Tennessee constitution in the collection Nineteenth Century in Print: Books. The new constitution was adopted on February 23, 1870.

To learn more about Tennessee before and after the war: