'It's quite devastating': 105th anniversary of Taliesin murders

SPRING GREEN, Wis. (WMTV) -- South Central Wisconsin is always quick to claim beloved architect Frank Lloyd Wright as our own, honoring his revolutionary style.

That style and technique is prominent at Wright’s beloved Taliesin estate in Spring Green. But with a stunning home comes a tragic past.

“Taliesin is often referred to as Wright's autobiography in wood and stone,” says Carrie Rodamaker, executive director at Taliesin Preservation. “So there's very much, to me, a personal story that exudes from this entire property."

For the 30,000 people who visit the Taliesin estate annually, it’s easy to become immersed in the beauty and tranquility of the 800 acre property.

But 105 years ago this week, a grim memory stained the main home forever.

“When you think about it, up until recently, it was the largest mass murder location in the state of Wisconsin, for about 100 years or so,” Rodamaker tells NBC15 News.

On August 15, 1914, Julian Carlton, a servant at the Taliesin home, murdered seven people, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s mistress, Mamah, and her two children.

“He had basically poured kerosene around the exteriors and then whoever attempted, and then set it on fire. And then whoever attempted to come out, he had an ax and would bludgeon them,” Rodamaker says.

The harsh memory still etched into the woodwork of Taliesin, where Wright rebuilt after the fire. The Spring Green community stood alongside him.

“In 1914 when this fire happened, you saw that community come pulling together and realizing that it doesn't matter where you're from or who you are, you're an individual in need and in suffering, and people pulled together to help, you know put the fires out,” Rodamaker says.

More than a century later, the memory of the fire has simmered, but the character of the property, and the creator himself, continues to spark.

“Frank Lloyd Wright was a farm kid from Wisconsin, and now he's being listed as 20th century modern architect. It's pretty incredible,” Rodamaker tells NBC15.

Taliesin suffered a second fire in 1925 due to an electrical problem. Wright again rebuilt the destroyed area.

Last month, the Taliesin property, and seven other Frank Lloyd Wright properties, were voted UNESCO World Heritage sites, honoring the architect’s groundbreaking style.

You can tour the Taliesin home in Spring Green until late fall of this year.