SPRING GREEN, Wis. -- Frank Lloyd Wright may have been America's most famous architect, and the list of his masterpieces could go on nearly forever: Fallingwater, the Guggenheim in New York, the Robie House, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, and on and on. But for Wright himself, the most important building he ever created may well have been the main hillside house at Taliesin, his lovely 600-acre estate outside his childhood town of Spring Green.
Though he spent his early career living in Oak Park, Ill., and later established a home and architecture school at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Ariz., his Wisconsin homestead was still close to his heart. And when Wright died, at 91, his body was returned to Taliesin.
Though a masterpiece in its own right, Taliesin may nevertheless be most famous as the home where Wright's mistress was murdered, along with six others, in 1914 in a fire set by a servant.
As part of Road Trip 2013, CNET's Daniel Terdiman took a behind-the-scenes tour of Taliesin, bookending the tour he took on Road Trip 2007 of Taliesin West.
Wright lived in Oak Park, Ill., where he had set up his architectural firm. But when he fell in love with Mamah Borthwick, the wife of a client, he moved -- along with his mistress -- to Spring Green. He built the main house on the Taliesin estate -- which means "shining brow" in Welsh -- for Borthwick, completing it in 1911.
Though the house was first completed that year, it has been evolving ever since, in part because Wright had to contend with two major fires, but also because even after his death, Taliesin has continued to evolve as a showpiece of architecture and of the famous architect himself.
One of Wright's most exquisite rooms is the living room in the main house at Taliesin, a room that is at once vast and intimate. What's not evident to the naked eye is that Wright expanded the room at the point of the pillar on the far wall after a fire. Originally the pillar was where the wall was.
One of the most elegant elements of the living room is the wide open view of the peaceful and stunningly beautiful local landscape, hills, and valleys. Taliesin was built in the middle of a large, untouched area of nature, and Wright wanted everyone who visited -- or lived there -- to be able to enjoy that nature from the house's main living space.
Wright fans may at first think that the living room is cantilevered over the hillside, which almost seems to disappear as it drops below the house. But in fact, Wright built the house into the side of the hill, cleverly using the shape of the landscape to serve his architectural and engineering purposes.
After Mamah Borthwick died in the 1914 fire, Wright married twice more, finally taking Olga Ivanovna Lazovich as his wife. Her tastes were different than those of Wright, as her bedroom shows. Where Wright's style was complex and layered -- as evidenced by the masonry on the room's back wall, her aesthetic tended to more simple style, as the hearth in her bedroom shows.
This is the Romeo & Juliet tower on the Taliesin estate. It was the first structure that Wright ever designed. Built in 1896 for his aunts Jane and Nell Lloyd Jones, it was only supposed to last for 25 years. Instead, it stood until 1990, when it was significantly rebuilt.