n 1899, Griffin graduated with a B. S. in Architecture. He returned to Chicago where he quickly found a job as a draftsman working with Chicago's most progressive architects.
hey called themselves "The 18" and they worked out of the 11th and 12th floors of Steinway Hall. Among the group were Dwight Perkins, Myron Hunt, Robert Spencer, and Webster Tomlinson. Frank Lloyd Wright, who had left the group in 1898 to start his own design studio in Oak Park, Illinois, remained an irregular member. By accident or design, Griffin became exposed to the most progressive design philosophy in America. "The 18" took their inspiration from Louis Sullivan who argued that all designs should be free from historical precedents.
hile at Steinway Hall, Griffin moved from board to board, listening to the discussions of his employers. But it was not until June 9, 1900 that he heard Louis Sullivan speak of the future of architecture. That night Griffin listened as Sullivan gave a talk entitled The Young Man in Architecture. Sullivan told the audience "if anyone tells you that is it impossible within a lifetime to develop and perfect a complete individuality of expression, a well-ripened and perfected personal style, tell him that you know better and that you will prove it by your lives." Griffin would recall Sullivan's words for the rest of his life.
n 1901, Griffin passed Illinois' architectural certification exam with high marks. At the same time he was working for Frank Lloyd Wright's partner, Webster Tomlinson. In fact Tomlinson would be the only architectural partner of Wright's career. Through Tomlinson, Griffin was offered a position in Wright's studio located in suburban Oak Park.
or Griffin, his new post was a step up. He saw himself playing the role of junior partner to Wright who was 10 years his senior.
riffin was a strong addition to Wright's design practice because he not only had a university degree but also two years of drafting experience, a license to practice architecture, and extensive experience in landscape architecture. Since much of Wright's work at this time involved domestic suburban housing, these landscaping skills proved to be an asset.
right allowed all of his employees to take on outside projects, as long as it didn't interfere with studio work. Griffin took advantage of this policy and, in 1901, he received his first independent commission to design a house. W.H. Emery, a Griffin family friend, retained the young architect to design his house in Elmhurst, Illinois. Griffin's first home design clearly displayed his individual talent. Here he used large corner piers that seem to hold the weight of the house. This element would become a hallmark of much of Griffin's future work.
t was in Wright's studio that Griffin met the woman who would be his first love, Maginel Wright, his employer's sister. Griffin was extremely shy and socially awkward. So despite his attraction to the pretty woman who was his same age, Griffin attempted to keep his love for Maginel private. She, of course, had no clue of his affection for her. Then one day, Griffin proposed to her. Maginel was totally shocked. She didn't really even know him that well and she refused him. She was married shortly thereafter to someone else. Griffin took the rejection very hard, and signed off on the idea of women and love evermore.