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William Turk Priestley (1907-1995)

Dates of Interview:

October 7, 1983

Location of Interview:

Priestley's home in Lake Forest, Illinois


Betty J. Blum

Length of Transcript:

28 pages
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Biographical Summary

William Turk Priestley was born in 1907 in Yazoo City, Mississippi. He received his B.A. from Princeton University in 1931 and went on to study with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at the Bauhaus in Berlin, Germany. When Priestley returned to the United States, he completed graduate study in architecture at Columbia University. In 1934, he formed a partnership with John Barney Rodgers in New York City. In 1937, Mies came to the United States to prepare a commission and invited Priestley and Rodgers to assist him. Subsequently, Priestley accompanied Mies on his first trip to Taliesin to meet Frank Lloyd Wright and acted as one of Mies's translators at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. During his career, Priestley worked in the Chicago architectural firms of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and PACE Associates, and also maintained a private practice. He was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in 1972. Priestley died in Lake Forest in 1995.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe,
Perspective view of proposed design for architecture building for Illinois Institute of Technology; Chicago, 1944.
Department of Architecture, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Interview Excerpt

"I didn't meet Wright until later when Mies came through Chicago in 1937, and then Bertrand Goldberg and I took him up to Taliesin and met Wright at that point. Mies, Bertrand, and I had lunch with John Holabird, Sr., in Chicago--that's when Holabird was talking to [Mies] about coming to Armour Institute--and Mies said that he would like to see Taliesin to meet Wright. So Holabird got through to Frank Lloyd Wright on the telephone. While [Mies] was waiting for him, he handed me the telephone and said that he liked Frank Lloyd Wright very much, but wanted a chance to say how bad he thought his architecture was. So I told Wright that I'd been a student of Mies, and he was in this country and would like to come up to Taliesin to pay his respects. Wright said, "I should think he would." And then [Wright] hung up." (p. 6)

Additional Resources

William Turk Priestley images in the R&B Archives
Related archival materials in the R&B Archives

Funding for this oral history was provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.