Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park Love Life Goes Public
As published in the Chicago Daily News, sister publication of the Chicago Sun-Times:
Frank Lloyd Wright changed American architecture when he introduced the “Prairie style” of homes to Chicago in the early 1900s. His focus always was on creating affordable homes that have become an intricate part environment, and not just a house on a slab of earth, has influenced architects for generations.
But throughout his life, Wright’s love life often attracted more attention than the homes he built, especially early in his career. A series of Chicago Daily News reports in 1909 and 1910 chronicled the budding architect’s affair with a client and neighbor in Oak Park that caused a scandal in the otherwise quiet suburb.
On November 9, 1909, a story broke in the Daily News that Wright and Mrs. Edwin H. Cheney left their potential mates and fled to Europe together. Friends begged them to come home.
“The abandoned wife and the abandoned husband today refused to resume the discussion about their missing companions,” the report said. Ms. Wright refused to be seen in her beautiful bungalow on Chicago and Forest avenues in Oak Park. Mr. Cheney was found in his office on the sixteenth floor of the Marquette building.
Edwin Cheney declined to discuss his wife, whom the newspaper consistently referred to as “Mrs. Cheney”, with the reporter.
Nearly a year later, Wright and Mrs. Cheney had not returned from Europe, but an August 3, 1910 article in the Daily News indicated that reconciliation may be on the horizon. Catherine Wright intended to find her husband.
“I still love my husband and blame him for nothing that happened,” she told a Daily News reporter. “I received a letter from him this morning. He is in Europe and he asked me to leave immediately with our children and to meet him there. I’m sure there will be reconciliation as soon as we meet. I plan to leave for Europe on Thursday or Friday. I have my trunk all ready for the trip across the water.
The newspaper claimed Ms Cheney would return home from Europe, but failed to locate her. According to the August 4 report, her children had retired to a summer camp “about 20 miles from their home” and “their father visits them frequently.” Later that same day, an informant told the newspaper the location of the camp in Cary, Illinois, and the Daily News dispatched a reporter to the town.
On the property, the reporter found two tents and flags where “two women were seen nearby preparing the meal for the children’s father when he was due to arrive from town, and three children were playing under the trees. “.
In a move that would be frowned upon by modern journalists, the reporter then spoke to 11-year-old John Cheney, likely without parental consent, although the women (a housekeeper and cook) may have approved of the interview. .
“” Sure, I like it here, “he said in response to a question,” but “his eyes grew sadder and with just a hint of a tear starting in his eyes,” I would like my mom to come home. She’s been gone for so long that I’m afraid I’ll forget what she looks like, ”the reporter wrote of the boy’s comments.
Ms. Cheney probably never arrived. An article dated September 24, 1910 announced that Wright would return to Chicago, without Ms. Cheney.