The Two Towers that Frank Lloyd Wright Built

The Only Two Towers Frank Lloyd Wright Ever Built

Evan Stroessner

The Towers of Wright


The Towers of Wright 

by Evan Stroessner 

Dedicated to Ms. Jones and Mrs. M


New York, Today 

Evan Stroessner 

     The Research Tower and the Price Tower are the only two towers Frank Lloyd Wright ever built. The Research Tower in Racine, Wisconsin, and the Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, are two of the most amazing towers that I’ve ever seen. They both have been recently renovated and restored. Furthermore, some of the most famous architects in the world have come to work and look at the towers.

     I’ve always wondered how the Wright buildings always turn out amazing. Nevertheless, the inside areas never seem as functional as it’s supposed to be. Wright would always say that fashion would always go before function. And he was right, except that fashion for his buildings was way above function.

     I would always want to go to the towers. Now I can visit both of them because they have recently opened up for tours. The buildings have gone through extensive redoing, therefore they are newer and more modern. You can also go visit the Inn at Price Tower or the Research Tower tours, and you could learn more about them.


Bartlesville, Oklahoma 1952 

Frank Lloyd Wright

The Price Tower Architect

     It was 1952, and Frank Lloyd Wright received a message from Harold C. Price Jr. to build an office building for his company. Price was the owner of a large oil industry called H. C. Price. Twenty years earlier, Wright thought of an idea for the St. Marks building in New York City, but when the Great Depression hit, the blueprints were shelved for a later use. Now seemed to be the time to uncover the designs and put them to use. He had been longing to create a skyscraper, and in his late 70’s the man knew he was running out of time.

     The building was going to be used as an office building. Price wanted the building a horizontal structure, standing two stories high. Nevertheless, Wright countered with 21 stories as he planned for the St. Marks building. With a final count of 19 stories, Wright and Price met and became friends quite quickly, because they agreed on many things. The experienced architect had planned for the building to be designed like a tree, since he was always fascinated with nature, shown in most of his buildings.

     The location would be a small town in Oklahoma named Bartlesville. With the area having no skyscrapers, the Price Tower would be very distinct from the other buildings. The tower uses the colors copper and green to display its connection with nature. The building was built from 1953- 1956. Because of its tree like appearance, it has claimed the nickname "The tree that escaped the crowded forest."


Bartlesville, Oklahoma 1952

Harold C. Price Jr.


H. C. Price Company CEO


     As the owner of the H. C. Price Company, Harold C. Price Jr. wanted to build an office building for his company. He was redirected by Bruce Goff and turned his attention to the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. As he knew, Wright designed mainly flat buildings, but had to settle on a tower with 19 stories. Price went to talk with Wright and made all plans for the building.

     Price suggested many ideas for the design of the building. The colors and interior were based off of not just Wright's ideas, but his too. Things such as the furniture and structural layout were all things that were influenced by him. His fascination with architecture and design made it so he could be included in the steps of the building and designing.

     The main construction started in 1953. Not only did the design take an average amount of time, it sped up due to Price taking risks and him working with Wright. When construction was finished in 1956, Price had an idea for the building. He wanted residential space to keep up with the financial costs. However, his suggestion was turned down. Although not all of Price’s ideas were accepted, he still had a large contribution to the Price Tower.


 Bruce Goff


Oklahoma University, 1951

First Choice for Designer 

     Bruce Goff was the Dean of Architecture at Oklahoma University. One day, a student named Joe Price, who was the son of Harold C. Price Jr., came to him to ask a question. Joe wanted Goff to design the Price Tower for H. C. Price. Goff had many other buildings to work on and wasn’t sure if he had enough time. He turned down the offer, but led them to Frank Lloyd Wright.

     Wright had been serving as Goff’s mentor, so they had a close bond. Likewise, he was also an architect that designed many other buildings. A lot of them he had built in Bartlesville, where the Price Tower was being erected. Furthermore, Price and Goff knew each other because Goff taught many of Price’s relatives, including children, at Oklahoma University.

     When the Price Tower was finished, Goff decided to set up an office in the rental

space. This made it so he could work on his other buildings in the area. He didn’t just help the tower, but the tower helped him too, because he was able to manage his buildings in the area easily. The Price Tower probably would not of been able to be built if it wasn’t for Bruce Goff.




 Recent Renovator

Wendy Evans Joseph 

Bartlesville, Oklahoma, 2002 


     In 2002, the Price Tower was looking for renovation because it was getting old and it didn’t have proper cleaning or care. When Wendy Evans Joseph was giving a lecture in Bartlesville, she was approached by a man name Richard Townsend who asked her a question. Wendy Evans Joseph was asked to turn the first eight floors of the Price Tower into the Inn at Price Tower, which is a hotel. In addition, she was also asked to design a restaurant and bar named Copper on the 15th and 16th floors. Joseph accepted the offer and started to brainstorm ideas.

     The 21 rooms she made were following Wright’s creations, but she added some touches of her own. This made it so her work wouldn’t be the same building it was before. On the other hand, a lot of her ideas made it so you could tell the difference between her work and the original design. Most of the furniture and art inside was customly made by her. Joseph’s design made it so not just one piece is outstanding, but everything in the room adds to one big “picture”.

     The renovation was finished in 2003. Joseph used her prior architecture skills to help create 21 magnificent suites. The custom artwork just goes to show how much time and effort she put into the tower. In conclusion, without Wendy Evans Joseph, the Price Tower may have not been standing today. She didn’t just restore a building, she made it better.



Bartlesville, Oklahoma, 2002 

Designer of the Arts Center 

Zaha Hadid 

     In 2002 the H. C. Price Company was looking for someone to build an expansion on the skyscraper. It was called the Price Tower Art Center, which would serve as a museum for the tower and other exhibits. They came across a 2004 Pritzker Prize Winner, an architectural award, Zaha Hadid. She was the first woman to be awarded the prize, and also the youngest at age 53. She was asked to design the Arts Center and she said yes.

     One the first things she noticed was that some roads and unused parking lots were in the way of construction. As a result, she and her team interviewed town members to ask what they could take down. After that, they cleared out an area for the building and started designing the interior. The area where they were was near perfect.

     The center had a plaza to the south of it. Therefore, it would act as an approach to the building. Hadid started to work on the design of the inside. Her previous experience in architecture helped her think of ideas and be more creative. The Arts Center is now a popular museum, and people from everywhere flock there to see the history behind the incredible Price Tower.



Frank Lloyd Wright 

Racine, Wisconsin, 1950


     The S. C. Johnson and Son Company asked Frank Lloyd Wright to design the S. C. Johnson Research Tower. Wright decided that he wanted to make the building on a cantilever structure. A cantilever structure is a building supported on one side only. This is the tallest structure ever made using this system. Likewise, it was made on a system called the “taproot” design. That’s where the building is supported by one central core.

     Wright chose the “taproot” design to make it look like a tree. The trunk, or the core, made the floors look almost like branches sticking out. Wright used a lot of natural light and employees at the building quickly learned to use sunglasses inside. Furthermore, the floors looked like different layers of glass and brick. The building was definitely not boring, just like what Wright wanted.

     In 1950, when the building was finished, the company started to think of great ideas. Some workers said that the tower gave them creativity and helped them think. In the first 10 years, the SC Johnson & Son Foundation started selling products such as Glade, Raid, and Off!. After that, people started noticing problems like the lack of emergency exits and tight claustrophobic areas. The interior is not a good place for people that are not good in closed spaces, because there are some passageways that are only two feet wide. The building stayed in use until a couple years later, when it was abandoned.


 Racine, Wisconsin 1950

H. F. Johnson Jr. 

Owner of SC Johnson & Son 

     Herbert F. Johnson was the owner of SC Johnson & Son. The company was in need for an architect to design a research tower they were going to build. Frank Lloyd Wright was the first person in mind. He asked if Wright could build the tower and he said yes. Later, Johnson and Wright met and got to work.

     When they first met they didn’t agree on anything. They didn’t enjoy being around one another and had negative attitudes to the other. This is shown when Johnson said, “He had a Lincoln-Zephyr and I had one; that was the only thing we agreed on. On all other matters we were at each others throats.” Although the partners had a rough start, they got friendlier and they were finally able to be productive.

     The final product fit Johnson’s expectations. The workers were thinking of better ideas because of the way Wright built the inside. Therefore, the company suddenly became a very successful and large industry. But once he looked more into it, he saw problems. For example, there were no escape routes for the employees to take in case of an emergency. The space was small and clustered and there wasn’t room for many things. Also, he had to change Wright’s idea of three legged chairs because the workers kept on falling when they went to reach for something. Later on, the space had to close down, and it was left empty, with no purpose.

Ben Wiltscheck 


Racine, Wisconsin, 1950 

     Ben Wiltscheck was a contractor that was chosen for the Johnson Research Tower. He was educated at Pennsylvania University to become an architect. But, he moved out of that field and decided to go into construction. In 1943 H. F. Johnson Jr. asked him to be the contractor for his new project. Wiltscheck said yes, and went to Taliesin to talk about the building.

     Wright usually considered contractors as enemies. Nevertheless, Wiltscheck and Wright became friends quickly. When he went to show Wright one of his buildings, the wallpaper was falling off. This still did not change Wright’s opinion of the new contractor, and said that he seemed like a good man.

     Wiltscheck was used to building houses and not 15 story towers. He still stayed confident and was prepared for the job. Together, he and his team of builders created all parts of the building. He and Wright shared many things in common, such as a passion for music. Wiltscheck played a large role in the design, construction, and decorating of the tower.

 Herbert Fisk Johnson III

Current Owner 

Racine, Wisconsin, 1950 


     Herbert Fisk Johnson III is the CEO of the Johnson Research Tower. He is the fifth generation owner of the building. When the building was once again noticed, Johnson decided to renovate and restore the it. Every single brick and window was replaced with a new one. Today, Johnson oversees all of the work done on the tower.

     Johnson spends most of his time and effort on the building. In 2000, he was appointed the chairman of SC Johnson. He spends an average of about $5 million dollars on the tower each year. When he said, “Our family’s long partnership with Frank Lloyd Wright led to these architectural treasures that we’re honored to work in every day.” he shows that he still has an appreciation for what people did years ago.

     Herbert Fisk Johnson III wants to keep the building the same way it was in Wright’s mind. He decided to open up a museum in one part of the tower. There people could take tours and learn about the history of the tower. Herbert Fisk Johnson III has revived the building, but still keeping it the way Wright wanted it.  


 Falling Water

Falling Water is a house built for the Kaufmann family. The Kaufmanns owned a department store and they needed a new cabin for the workers. During the construction, they changed their minds and decided to make it a house for their family. Frank Lloyd Wright, who was the architect, built the house in an isolated area. Nothing was around it besides wildlife and forest. Therefore, the Kaufmanns could learn to respect the plants and animals around them. When construction was finished, the family complained that they couldn't see the waterfall that the house was built over. In response, Wright said, I don’t want you to see the waterfalls I want you to live with them.


Taliesin West 

In 1937, Frank Lloyd Wright began to build a house called Taliesin West. It would serve as his house, office, and architectural campus. It was built in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is open for tours today. When Frank Lloyd Wright died, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation was given the rights to the building. They decided that they would open it for tours so the public could visit the extraordinary building.


This is the one of the many descriptions in the Price Tower Promotional Folder. You can learn more at

Date: 1955

Title: 5) Price Tower Construction 1955.


Description: Concrete work is virtually finished. View from the northwest. “...Tower now stands in iridescent splendor gracing the flat horizon of the Oklahoma prairie.” Similar photograph published in “The Story of the Tower”, Wright 1956, page 90-92. Photograph by Joe D. Price.



Size: Original silver gelatin photograph. 16 x 20.


S#: 1092.17.0707

     Evan Stroessner is a boy in 6th Grade, that lives in a small town in Weschester. He loves soccer and is fascinated with things such as robotics and design. He competes in a soccer league, but also plays sports such as football and tennis. Some of my hobbies consist of playing drums, darts, and collecting playing cards. I was inspired by the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and decided to write my books about him and the towers he designed.

About The Author

     The Price Tower and the Research Tower, both designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, are towers filled with color and creativity. All the people that contributed to erecting of them are listed throughout this picture book. Each individual has their own seperate story of how they helped create the magnificent buildings. Everybody from builders to designers are listed and written about in this book that talks about the creation and stories behind each skyscraper.