Building your own home is something many strive to do. Building your dream home and being able to have exactly what you want is ideal. But what if your perfect dream home is designed for illicit reasons? Having a mistress and wanting to have a love nest was the reason for the design and building of Taliesin; the Spring Green, WI, home of famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Taliesin, now

Frank Lloyd Wright is a known name in the architectural world, for his architectural designs following the philosophy of organic architecture. He believed in designing in harmony with humanity and the environment. As interesting as his life and legacy are, we are here today to discuss the darker side of Frank Lloyd Wright. The massacre at Taliesin.

Catherine Wright
Mamah Cheney

In 1903, while living in Chicago, Frank was commissioned by his neighbor, Edwin Cheney, to design a house for him and his wife, Martha. It wasn’t long that Frank began to covet his neighbors wife. Eventually the pair ran off to Europe together. The Cheney’s divorced, but Frank and his wife Catherine did not. She refused until 1923.

Seeking a love nest where he and Martha, affectionately called Mamah, could live together, he returned home to Wisconsin and built the estate Taliesin, which is Welsh for Shining Forehead.

In 1911, Frank and Martha moved in. As Frank was working from the home for his designs, he had several employees around the property as well. Draftsmen, laborers, and household staff. The residents of Spring Green, didn’t appreciate that their newest residents were not married to each other and living together. Frank was still married to Catherine, and the town perceived this situation to be scandalous.

August 15, 1914, Frank was in Chicago working on the design of Midway Gardens. Mamah and her two children, John and Martha, 12 and 8 respectively, were sitting down for lunch on the porch. The rest of the workers were inside the house in the main dining room.

Julian Carlton

After having served the soup, Julian Carlton, a houseman instructed his wife to leave. He then returned to the porch and attacked Mamah and her two children with an axe before pouring gasoline on the floors and setting it ablaze. The dining room also burst into flames. The door was slammed shut and locked, only three of the workers managed to escape. They were all burned and wounded. They hurried to the nearest house to call for help. But, it was too late.

When help arrived, they found the bodies of Mamah, John, Martha, and three of the workers, one was a 13 year old boy. The only survivors were the master carpenter, and a 19 year old named Fritz. The other man who escaped, the landscaper, later succumbed to his burns.

Taliesin, after the fire

Julian Carlton was was discovered in the basement furnace of the house. He was barely conscious having swallowed muriatic acid. Muriatic acid is used for heavy duty cleaning projects, like removing salt on rocks. Julian never gave a reason for the crimes and died seven weeks later from starvation.


Frank grieved the loss of Mamah, and her coffin was carpeted in flowers. He also rebuilt Taliesin, much of which had been destroyed. By the end of 1914, he had proclaimed his love for another woman, Maude, who had written him her condolences. He would marry her in 1923, after finally divorcing his first wife, Catherine.

Taliesin is now a National Historic Landmark. It is open for tours, and you can see more information about tours and history at http://www.taliesinpreservation.org.

A shout out to Timothy S. who had visited the property and learned that the location is haunted as well as nearby roads as well. Something I will be checking out soon myself!

Be strong, be beautiful, be you

Frank Lloyd Wright 1867 – 1959

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