Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bankruptcy And Bounce Back

Wisconsin native Frank Lloyd Wright is America’s most-loved architect. During the 70 years he was actively working, he designed over 1,000 structures — including many here in the Milwaukee area. Because of his fame, many people assume he was a success from the start, and never knew hardship. The truth is Wright suffered a mid-career slump that drove him into bankruptcy, and nearly into obscurity. 

Wright, who grew up near Spring Green and attended the University of Wisconsin, had success early in his career working for the famous Chicago architects Joseph Lyman Silsbee and Louis Sullivan. He then went out on his own and quickly began to make a name for himself. He pioneered what became known as the Prairie School of architecture, with its focus on building structures that highlight their natural surroundings. 

However, his reputation as an architect was soon sullied by his salacious personal life. He abandoned his wife and children in order to hide out in Europe with the wife of one of his clients. A few years later, his mistress, her children, and several other people were murdered at Wright’s famous home/studio, Taliesin. A servant set fire to the home, then bludgeoned people with an ax as they tried to escape. 

As his architectural commissions slowed down, Wright made ends meet by dealing in Japanese art. He even used prints as collateral for loans. “In 1926, the Bank of Wisconsin foreclosed on the mortgage on Wright’s Taliesin property and sent 346 choice prints from Wright’s collection to be auctioned at the Anderson Galleries in New York. The sale brought a mere $36,000.”

Being evicted from Taliesin and declaring bankruptcy was Wright’s low point. Getting a fresh financial start, and meeting his third wife allowed him to bounce back both professionally and personally. He bought back Taliesin, built a Taliesin West in Arizona, and started a celebrated architectural school. By the time he turned 70, he was the most well-known architect in America. He continued working until his death at the age of 91. Eight of his buildings — including Taliesin and the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House here in Wisconsin — were recently added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Wright did not let his failures define him. Instead, he overcame them and moved forward with his personal life and career. He went on to bigger and better things, and built a reputation that endures to this day. We can all learn something from this. 

If you are buried under an insurmountable pile of debt and need a way out, Hanson & Payne is here for you. Our experienced team of attorneys helps people and businesses in the Milwaukee area use bankruptcy to get a fresh start. We are experienced with both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies and can advise you which chapter would work best for you. Please contact us to schedule an initial consultation.