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Frank Lloyd Wright’s love of Arizona first sprang from a conversation with Dr. Alexander J. Chandler in 1927. Wright was serving as an advisor to a former student who was the architect of the Arizona Biltmore. During an opening celebration of the Biltmore, Dr. Chandler approached Wright with the idea of building a grand hotel in the unspoiled desert.
Chandler told Wright that he had waited ten years to find the perfect architect to build a hotel at the base of South Mountain in today’s Ahwatukee. Upon visiting the site Wright was stunned by its beauty, saying “There could be nothing more inspiring to an architect on this earth than [this] spot of pure Arizona desert…at last here was the time, the place, and in Dr. Chandler the man.”
The hotel, named the San Marcos in the Desert, was designed by Wright and his team in a camp called Ocatilla on the future site of the hotel. The camp, which featured wood framed tents with angled canvas roofs, would inspire the design of Taliesin West in Scottsdale.
The stock market crash of 1928 wiped out financing for the project. Despite the Great Depression, Wright and Chandler spent many years trying to build the hotel, as well as designing several other projects which, if financing could have been obtained to build them, would have changed Chandler forever.