Thursday, Oct. 21, 1926: Wright jailed in Minneapolis

Posted on March 19th, 2006 – 6:05 PM
By Ben Welter

Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the most influential American architects of the 20th century, had his share of personal troubles, many of his own making. His chaotic love life landed him in a Minneapolis jail in October 1926. Here is the Minneapolis Tribune’s Page One account of the arrest:

Frank Lloyd Wright Jailed Here;
Found With Dancer at ‘Tonka

Noted Architect Held With-
out Charge for Bara-
boo, Wis., Police.

Occupied Cottage at Wild-
Hurst with Mme. Olga
Milanoff Since Sept. 7.

Frank Lloyd Wright, an architect of international fame, who has been dodging the courts on various counts since September 1, when he eluded Chicago and Milwaukee authorities, was arrested by Hennepin county deputy sheriffs Wednesday night in a cottage at Wildhurst, Lake Minnetonka. He was brought to the Hennepin county jail, where he was held without charge for Baraboo, Wis., authorities.

FLW
Frank Lloyd Wright in 1954, five years before his death.

With Mr. Wright, the husband of Miriam Noel Wright, from whom he is estranged, was Mme. Olga Milanoff, a Montenegrin dancer, whose husband has been searching for her with the same diligence with which Mrs. Wright sought the architect. They were occupying the cottage with two children, Svetlana, 9 years old, the dancer’s daughter by her husband, Vladimir Hinzenburg, an 18-month-old baby, [the infant, a girl, was actually 10 months old] a stenographer and a maid. After arresting Wright the deputies returned to Minnetonka and brought Mme. Milanoff and the two children to the county jail.

Rented Cottage September 7.

It developed that Mr. Wright came to Lake Minnetonka September 7, and rented the cottage on the shores of ‘Tonka bay belonging to Mrs. D.F. Simpson, widow of the late Judge Simpson. He paid the rental in advance and in currency. It was said that he retained the domestic help employed by the Simpsons, and went further to ask Mrs. Simson if he might use her name in procuring meats and groceries. This was refused.

Apparently he and Mme. Milanoff have lived at the cottage for more than six weeks. Mr. Wright has been engaged in completing the first of two volumes of an autobiography.

When the deputies came to the kitchen door of the cottage Wednesday night they were met by the cook and maid, Miss Viola Meyerhaus. They asked for “Mr. Richardson,” having obtained knowledge that Mr. Wright used that alias in Chicago, and were admitted. Wright at first denied his identity, but later admitted that he was the man they sought.

Nervous at First.

At first he exhibited nervousness and anxiety, but after his admission he settled back calmly and answered their questions.

Mme. Milanoff is the wife of a Chicago architect. She became Wright’s housekeeper, and, according to Mrs. Wright, is “the one who broke up our home.” Mr. Wright owns a large estate, Taliesen, near Spring Green, Wis.

“Is this my country and is this what I have worked for?” asked the architect at the Hennepin county jail Wednesday night. “Can’t I be left alone? Everyone I see, except those I love, reminds me of the hog that trampled down the corn it couldn’t eat.

“I have lived an honorable life. Is it at all fair to the baby to deny her what my love for her deserves. My fortunes and my destinies do not count at all. It is just that child.”

Shortly after Mr. Wright declared to a questioner that he had never denied being the father of the baby, whom he and Mme. Milanoff call “Pussy.” He would make no admissions further than that.

At the Simpson cottage Svetlana broke into tears. Mme. Olga, who had been sitting quietly in the living room, while a stenographer typed the latest passages dictated to her by her employer, took the child into her arms and advanced toward the men.

Child Is Frightened.

“Tell my child that nothing is wrong. She is frightened and her heart will break. Tell her that all will be right tomorrow.” And each of the men did.

The child, when asked her name, had replied that it was “Mary.” The cook, Viola Meyerhaus, declared that she had been called “Mary” by her mother and by Wright, but added that all her dresses were monogrammed “Svetlana.”

Wright said that he had come to Lake Minnetonka in search of complete rest and to complete his autobiography. He said he had no knowledge of the fact that he was charged with infidelity by his wife and alienation of affections by Olga’s husband. The same charges had been preferred against Mme. Milanoff by Mrs. Wright and Hinzenberg.

May Fight Extradition.

Only once did Wright refer to his work in architecture, which has brought him international prominence. Then he said:

“I had a letter from a girl reporter in Tokio. She said that the Imperial hotel there was the only thing in the Orient which had lived up to her expectations. I designed and constructed that hotel, even all the furniture.”

It is probable that Wright will fight extradition. Attorneys for his defense will arrive from Milwaukee today, he said, after communicating with them Wednesday night. Chicago attorneys for both Mrs. Wright and Hinzenberg are also expected.

The romance of Wright and Maude Miriam Noel Wright, sculptress, which started with their flight to Japan 12 years ago, ended last December when she filed suit for divorce in Baraboo, Wis., charging desertion and cruelty. They were married in 1922, it then became known, a day after Mr. Wright had obtained a divorce from Mrs. Catherine L. Wright of Oak Park, Ill.

With Mme. Milanoff, Wright eluded the authorities at Baraboo.

The charges were brought by Hinzenberg, divorced husband of Mme. Milanoff, who was attempting to secure custody of his 9-year-old daughter. The child had been awarded to Mme. Milanoff at the time of the divorce.

Since September 1 no trace of Wright and Mme. Milanoff had been found. On September 30 it was reported that Wright was in Mexico, this report being based on a letter from him there said to have been received by a Chicago attorney, who was his personal friend.

FLW in 1926
Wright was arrested at the kitchen door of a Lake Minnetonka cottage on Oct. 20, 1926. The woman directly behind him probably was the cook, Viola Meyerhaus. Dim light and the camera’s slow shutter speed make the images fuzzy. (Minneapolis Times photo courtesy Minneapolis Public Library)

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