n September, 1909, Frank Lloyd Wright captured headlines when he left his wife and children and ran off to Europe with the wife of one of his clients. The scandal caused an uproar. Wright's Oak Park studio closed its doors leaving his draftsmen and his clients in limbo.
efore his departure, Wright had searched for someone to finish his outstanding commissions but none of his former employees were willing. Wright finally convinced an associate from Steinway Hall, Herman Von Holst to take the job. Von Holst realized that he needed someone with a better understanding of Wright's design concepts to please Wright's clients. So he promptly hired Marion Mahony to finish the designs.
ahony had worked for Wright on and off for 14 years. At times she had been his only employee. She was an outspoken, dramatic woman and the only female draftsman in Wright's studio. Mahony was the second woman to graduate with a degree in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the first licensed female architect in history. She had a very strong personal relationship with her employer and his wife. Wright even posed the two women together for a photograph.
arion was an exceptionally talented artist and draftsman. Her presentation drawings were based on the style of Japanese prints. The buildings appeared surrounded by an abundant landscape, recalling Mahony's own interest in the natural world. Also she contributed many beautiful leaded glass windows as well as furniture and fireplaces to Wright's designs.
n 1909, one of Wright's larger commissions which was put in the hands of Mahony was a house for Henry Ford. Ford approved Mahony's design and the foundation was laid. But a disagreement erupted between Ford and Mahony. Ford brought in another architect to complete the home. All that remains of Mahony's magnificent home for Ford are the plans at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University.
he was also to complete three of Wright's commissions on a private street in Decatur, Illinois. Wright had left sketches for a home to be built for Edward Irving, but two other homes needed to be designed.The first one Marion drew up was for Robert Mueller. She stuck with traditional Wrightian concepts such as leaded casement windows and overhanging eaves. But she added her own decorative touches such as colored tiles set in plaster.
he last house built under Marion's direction in Decatur was for Adolph Mueller, Robert's brother. Marion used some of the elements of her design for Henry Ford within the Adolph Mueller House. While it was based on Wright's style, the Adolph Mueller House gave Marion a chance to display her own artistic talents. She filled the living room's tent ceiling with stained glass. And wrapped the home in a continuous pattern of leaded glass. The Mueller houses in Decatur Illinois, are two of only three Mahony houses remaining in America.
on Holst, on Mahony's recommendation, hired Walter Burley Griffin to develop a landscape plan for the entire area. Soon Marion and Walter were working closely in the offices at Steinway Hall. Mahony designed an entry gate and street lamps to integrate her home designs to Walter's landscaping.
s the Decatur project progressed, Marion who was five years older than Walter, began to think of him more than on a professional level. The friendship blossomed into marriage in the summer of 1911. News of the marriage between the two architects was greeted with a surprised reaction from friends, family and co-workers. No one could believe the fiery Marion and the mild-mannered Walter were suited to be husband and wife.
fter their marriage Marion went to work in Walter's office, becoming his partner both personally and professionally. But her new role was taken not without repercussions. Harry Robinson, Griffin's chief draftsman and fellow classmate from the University of Illinois, resigned and returned to work for his former employer Frank Lloyd Wright. Marion became chief draftsman in the Griffin office. She began to use her pen to breathe life into all of Walters designs.
arion changed her famous monogram of MLM to MMG, signifying her certainty of her new marriage. Still her monogram, obscured amidst the flora, was the only credit she would claim. Despite her outspoken nature, her architectural license, and her recent taste of independence in Von Holst's office, Marion was never to take a step in that direction again.