"IN THE CAUSE OF ARCHITECTURE":
COMMENTARIES IN MEMORIAM
other writings 2
a few husbands,
Plus some merry men
The following is documentation based on my own personal knowledge of the many wives of Taliesin and their penchant for staying or returning to Taliesin before, during and after marriages, and Mrs Wright’s role in this behavior. It is intended only as a road map for future researchers who might be interested in Mrs. Wright’s role in the founding and management of the Taliesin Fellowship and later the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and her relationship to the behavior of the ladies. These ladies of Taliesin followed a distinctly different pattern in their marriages than did the men. The ladies stayed or returned to Taliesin thru several different marriages but the men with a couple of exceptions left the Fellowship for good for other venues. I will only concern myself with those ladies who were married at Taliesin and stayed or returned to that venue. There were two pairs of sisters who came to Taliesin and three stayed on a permanent basis. Minerva Montooth and Sara Logue came and stayed. The maiden name was Houston. Cornelia Brierly came and stayed, while sister Hulda came, married Drake and departed.
The Taliesin Fellowship from the mid 1950's was run like a Balkan court with Mrs. Wright as the Grand Duchess and Kay Schneider Cuneo Davison Oyakawa Rattenbury as the first lady in waiting. Lives were manipulated according to the Grand Duchess’ design. She saw herself as all knowing, a well of spiritual wisdom, and a paragon of human behavior. She was the court matchmaker and the official behaviorist, a role she was egregiously unqualified to assume. She played a major role, or at least had knowledge of, all the assignations that followed. I fail completely to understand the power she exercised over the merry wives of Taliesin; even intelligent, well educated ladies like Elizabeth Mock who returned to the bosom of Mother Wright when her marriage failed. What was the glue that was the bond between Mrs. Wright and these ladies? Was it the same bond that held the fellowship together after Mr. Wright’s death?
THE MERRY WIVES
Kay arrived at Taliesin in 1935 at age 17 (see Marty). She was not an architect but a friend of the German Warehouse owner. She married Larry Cuneo (1938/40), left Taliesin with him, divorced him and returned to Taliesin. Still at Taliesin she married apprentice Allen Davidson (1938/74), stayed at Taliesin and later divorced him. They had two children Tal (1942/71) and Celeste (1946?/present). Tal committed suicide in 1971. Celeste had polio as a child. She is now married and lives in northern California. Sometime after I left the Fellowship in 1954 Kay had a child fathered by Steve Oyakawa (1948/55) while married to Davy. She divorced Davy and married Steve and they moved to Colorado. Kay subsequently divorced Steve and returned to Taliesin. Steve committed suicide in 1980. Their child now lives in the Scottsdale area. Kay ultimately married John Rattenbury (1952/present) and stayed married to him until her death in 1996.
Cornelia arrived at Taliesin in 1934 and stayed until 1946 except for the war years. She married Peter Berndtson, spent the war years in Spokane, Washington, returned to Taliesin until 1946 when they moved to the Pittsburgh area where they practiced architecture and raised two children, Anna born 1940 and Indira born 1941. Cornelia divorced Peter and returned to Taliesin in 1955. What happened to Anna, aged 15 and Indira aged 14 when Cornelia returned to Taliesin? Peter later remarried. Anna eventually married apprentice Roger Coor. Indira returned to Taliesin in 1962 and is still there. I believe Indira was married once at Taliesin, left, was divorced, and returned to Taliesin. Cornelia also had a sister, Hulda, who was married at Taliesin to apprentice Peter Drake (1933/41).
Elizabeth Bauer Mock Kassler was an original apprentice and married Rudolf Mock at Taliesin. They left in 1933 and moved to Switzerland. Betty divorced Mock and returned to Taliesin for a year in 1948/49 with her son Fritz. She subsequently took a teaching position at a major university and never returned to Taliesin to stay. She subsequently married Kassler.
Daughter to Frank Lloyd and Olgivanna Lazovich Hinzenburg Milanoff Wright. Iovanna married naval office Waring Howe during WWII while in New York. The marriage was annulled. She married apprentice Arthur Pieper in the summer of 1953 in Chicago and later divorced him. Did they live at Taliesin? I don’t think so, but she probably returned to Taliesin after the divorce. She married apprentice Andrew Binney (1956/61) and divorced him. Next came Charles Schiffner 1968/83; also divorced him; one child Eve Lloyd Wright. Schiffner is now married to Adrienne Burchette, whose second marriage was to apprentice Dick Carney. Were Binney and Burchette married while at Taliesin after being divorced their respective spouses? I presume so.
Better known as Polly Lockhart. Polly joined the Fellowship in 1946, married Ken Lockhart and was gone in 1947 when I arrived in June. They were at Florida Southern College supervising construction. They returned in 1948 with two children. They were divorced in about 1957 when Ken fathered a child out of wedlock with Heloise Fichter Schweizer. Ken married Susan Jacobs Wheatley, apprentice and daughter of Jacobs Usonian house #1 fame, and Polly married Steven Nemtin, an apprentice, to whom she remained married. They all lived happily ever after, all together at Taliesin.
Heloise arrived at Taliesin in 1949. She married apprentice Nils Schweizer in 1950(?) and they went to Florida Southern to supervise construction. She divorced Schwiezer and returned to Taliesin. She bore Ken Lockhart a child out of wedlock in 1957 (see Francis Coan). Mrs. Wright sent her off to New York to marry former apprentice John Hill, who became the legal father of Christopher. Christopher died in a automobile accident in 1975. She then married apprentice Vern Swaback, divorced him and then married and divorced him for a second time before he left the Fellowship in 1978. After the divorce she changed her name to Crista in honor of her deceased son.
I don’t know this from first hand knowledge but..... Adrienne was at Taliesin by way of the Chicago Gurdjieff group, with two children from a previous marriage. She married and divorced apprentice Dick Carney, and then married Charles Schiffner after his divorce from Iovanna Wright. Nice to keep it all in the Taliesin family.
Shirley joined the Fellowship in 1951 and married apprentice Kelly Oliver. They were divorced and she subsequently married apprentice Tom Casey. After Shirley died Tom married apprentice Effie Bantzer.
Susan married and divorced apprentice Dave Wheatley. She then married Ken Lockhart after his divorce from Polly in about 1957. They remained married until Ken’s death in 1994.
A FEW HUSBANDS
Charles married apprentice Minerva Houston, probably after building the Pieper house with Arthur. The story goes that Charles, as a building contractor was going bankrupt, consulted with the big O [Olgivanna Wright] and was advised to sell the house and come back to Taliesin, which they did. Minerva became Mrs. Wright’s secretary and they are still there.
Arthur Pieper married apprentice Bodil Hammergard from Denmark and they built the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pieper house, #5218, in Scottsdale along with apprentice Charles Montooth. They divorced and Arthur became Iovanna Wright’s second husband in the summer of 1953. Pretty tight time schedule there.
Arnold Roy married divorcee Dori Welt from the Chicago Gurdjieff group in 1983.
THE MERRY MEN OF TALIESIN
I suppose no story of marriages at Taliesin is complete without citing the marriages of the merry men at Taliesin arranged by Mrs. Wright to fulfill a political agenda. Some of these ladies were from the Chicago Gurdjieff group and others were apprentices.
Mrs. Wright married Bruce to a Mrs. Jacobs from the Chicago Gurdjieff group.. They were divorced and Bruce returned to Taliesin.
Dave married Susan Jacobs. They were divorced and Susan returned to Taliesin.
Mrs Wright married Dick to Adrienne Burchette, a divorcee from the Chicago Gurdjieff group with two children. They were divorced, Dick remained at Taliesin for the rest of his life, and Adrienne married Iovanna’s ex-husband Charles Schiffner.
Mrs. Wright married Heloise Fichter Schweizer off to Johnny in New York in 1957 after she became pregnant with Ken Lockhart’s child. John Hill became an apprentice in 1938 and with Mr. Wright’s approval became Architectural Editor of House Beautiful magazine in 1953 and moved to New York. Johnny returned to Taliesin in 1963 at Mrs. Wright’s request and spent the rest of his life there. The child, Christopher, was killed in an automobile accident in 1975. I know nothing about the living arrangements of Johnny and Heloise between 1957 and 1975. Heloise later married Vern Swaback twice.
Wes married Olgivanna's daughter by Hinzenberg in a well documented event. Some time later, after Svetlana’s death in 1946, he married Stalin’s daughter Svetlana, but they were subsequently divorced; one daughter. I can only imagine Olgivanna's hand in this.