Frank Lloyd Wright's Ashes

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pharding
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Frank Lloyd Wright's Ashes

Post by pharding »

Does anyone know if this is true? Thanks.

Ashes of the famous architect: When Wright died in 1959 at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, his sixth child from his first marriage, Robert Llewellyn Wright, drove through the night to return Wright's body to Wisconsin where it was buried in a family plot. There Wright was surrounded by the graves of his grandparents, his mother, several of his sons and daughters, and a lover that was murdered by a deranged servant. It was the wish of Wright's third wife and widow, Oglivanna, that his body be removed from its Wisconsin grave, cremated, mixed with her ashes and used in the walls of a memorial garden to be built on the grounds of their home at Taliesin West. That plan was put into effect upon her death in March 1985 without notification of many of Wright's relatives. In spite of a resolution by the Wisconsin legislature protesting the exhumation and spiriting the ashes to Arizona and demanding their return, the ashes remained in an urn at Taliesin West for two years until the memorial garden was constructed.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

Wrightgeek
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Post by Wrightgeek »

Paul-

That story is very similar to the one that I have come across many times over the past few years. The only point of difference is the final disposition of the ashes at TW. I have heard that they were placed in a closely-guarded secret location somewhere on the property, the whereabouts of which are supposedly known only to a select few.

Maybe "m.perrino", who is an experienced and very knowledgable docent at TW, can offer some insight into this story/legend? Are you out there, Michael?
Last edited by Wrightgeek on Sat May 29, 2010 1:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

DavidC
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Post by DavidC »

According to "The Fellowship" (p. 590), it was Olgivanna's dying wish to dig Wright up, cremate his reamins, mingle them together with hers - to be interred at Taliesin West (though the book doesn't say exactly where at T. West). Iovanna, as the closest living relative, didn't want to sign off on it but was pressured to do so by Olga's confidantes. Wright's other living children were outraged at the idea. After Iovanna signed the papers, the undertaker went to the cemetery at 4AM, dug up Frank's corpse (which was said to be in remarkable condition after 26 years), cremated the remains, and personally flew with them to Arizona. When John Howe heard about it, he felt a sense of betrayal. The controversy continued for decades. In 2001, a fomer apprentice published a poem in the Taliesin Fellows Newsletter:

Who was it who, after lying in the cold damp ground for 25 years
And after hearing the clink of beer bottles and drunken voices above his grave
May have called out to his beloved wife
To take him to a warm dry place?



David

Palli Davis Holubar
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Post by Palli Davis Holubar »

My mother Madeline used to say she was amazed Mrs. Wright allowed him to remain so long next to Mamah. A practical romantic, Madeline, was offended that Mrs. Wright, a woman without her own homeland, would so selfishly deny Wright his.

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

The several children of FLW who surrounded him in Wisconsin died after he did, with the possible exception of Frances, who also died in 1959, though I'm not sure if before or after.

Wes Barwick
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Post by Wes Barwick »

Kamal Amin in his book mentions that Wright's ashes were interred at a secret location at TW. He seems to hint that they were in the walls and that people even today pass them without even knowing it. Has anyone else read his book?

Education Professor
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Post by Education Professor »

I believe Frances died in February 1959

SDR
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Post by SDR »

More than one Wright apprentice has mentioned the debacle of the relocated remains -- or so I had recalled. I had thought to find such material in Ed Tafel's second book, "About Wright" -- but the only thing that comes to light are Iovanna's comments. After a pleasant reminiscence of her youth, and her beloved father (whom she describes as being "violently jealous" of his wife), she concludes thus:

"I was with father when he passed away. I was there for three days and nights in the Hospital in Phoenix, with Uncle Vlado and Gene (Masselink). How can I ever forget those moments ? I do not think of my father's death constantly -- I couldn't live that way, no one could. But it does come back every once in a while.

"Some time before the recent removal of my father's remains from Wisconsin to Arizona, I had discussed this matter with my mother. We were sitting together in the cove in the house in the desert, and she was saying how awful she thought it was to have this coffin underground, with the worms chewing through it. It's much more beautiful -- more airy, free, and sunny -- in the desert, and the desert seemed far more appropriate. The graveyard had begun to be such a doleful, sorrowful place to visit. Moving the body was the very best thing to do. I was surprised at the idiotic, perfectly nasty reactions on the part of the Tobins (father's children by his first wife, Catherine Tobin). I really was. That was bad. They started the controversy, they stirred it all up -- Llewellyn, David, and the others. Very, very bad. They had no right to cross my mother's wishes. Besides, if you really think about it, remains are remains, they're simply symbolic. They're nothing else."






Tafel presents this without comment. Iovanna would have been in her early sixties when this was written.


SDR
Last edited by SDR on Thu May 27, 2010 9:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

DavidC
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Post by DavidC »

Wright's children with Catherine Tobin:


Frank Lloyd Wright Jr aka Lloyd Wright: Born 3/31/1890 in Oak Park, Illinois. Architect in Los Angeles, California. Died 5/31/1978 in Santa Monica, California. Married once.

John Lloyd Wright: Born 12/12/1892 in Oak Park, Illinois. Inventor of Lincoln Logs. He died on 12/20/1972 in Del Mar, San Diego, California. Married three times.

Catherine Dorothy Wright: Born 1/12/1894 in Oak Park, Illinois. Died 1/27/1979. Married once. One of her children was actress Anne Baxter.

David Samuel Wright: Born 9/26/1895 in Oak Park, Illinois. A businessman. Died 11/1/1997. Married three times.

Frances Lloyd Wright: Born 9/3/1898 in Oak Park, Illinois. Died 2/11/1959. Married twice.

Robert Llewellyn Wright: Born 11/5/1903 in Oak Park, Illinois. Lawyer. Died 2/22/1986. Married once.


David

Laurie Virr
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Post by Laurie Virr »

Palli Davis Holubar here makes her usual perceptive contribution.

In her heart of hearts Olgivanna knew that she was never more than second best in the affections of Frank Lloyd Wright. Mamah Borthwick Cheney was the love of his life.

The architect incorporated some of the stones blackened by the fire at Taliesin in Wisconsin into the new structure, and these would have been a constant reminder to Olgivanna of her position in the scheme of things. Surely this was not the least of the reasons she embraced the construction of Taliesin West with such alacrity?

Exhuming the remains of Frank Lloyd Wright from the site he had chosen for his grave, next that of Mamah Borthwick Cheney, and disposing of them in the manner Olgivanna requested, was the final act of revenge against the woman whose shadow had hung over her for more than 60 years. That her daughter and confidants acquiesced to this act, which was both petty and monstrous, says nothing for their characters.

Was the exhumation an officially authorized act? If not, did not such act constitute a Federal offense, and why were charges never laid?

DavidC
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Post by DavidC »

Laurie Virr wrote:Was the exhumation an officially authorized act?
Apparently, they needed Iovanna's signature to make things official. And eventually that was acquired - much to the chagrin of the rest of the family, and many others at Taliesin.


David

pharding
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Post by pharding »

Olgivanna knew that she was in second place, or most likely third place, in the pantheon of Frank Lloyd Wright's love life. Insecure and vindictive people tend to overreact and do dreadful things. Her daughter, Iovanna, is not hardly a model of human excellence. Compare what she did with her life to those of Frank's children with Catherine Tobin. Olgivanna did not have many redeeming qualities.
Last edited by pharding on Fri May 28, 2010 8:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

dkottum
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Post by dkottum »

On many visits to Taliesin West I have wondered where these ashes may have been placed, and am always drawn to the large red concrete square set with a petroglyph boulder at the entrance to the compound from the parking. With its gold inscription of a quote from Walt Whitman "And Thou America . . ." and prominent location, its seems a place of reverence and dignity, and fits Kamal Amin's hint of a place within the walls and where people pass daily without noticing.

I know nothing of this square as the tours do not mention it, and BBP's picture books do not include it as I recall, although I suspect FLW had it placed there at some time. Any history or thoughts on this little monument?

m.perrino
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Post by m.perrino »

Palli's insight is spot on, as are many others. Mamah was the love of his life.
After 26+ years at T-W, I haven't a clue as to where FLW's ashes are. I suspect that those still living who know would be BPP. Maybe John Rattenbury and David Dodge as well. There was and is no special 'garden'.
I suspect that if Olgivanna's and FLW's ashes are somewhere on the property, it would be in the Archives building. If not, my next CSI guess would be in the Garden Room or adjacent living quarters.

Michael

SDR
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Post by SDR »

How about the large bronze vessel in the Garden Room (?), around which glass was fitted. . .?

Perhaps his and her ashes were strewn to the desert breeze.

SDR

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