Edgar Tafel, 98; Worked with Wright


By Albert Amateau

Edgar Tafel, who apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright and designed St. John’s in the Village Episcopal Church and First Presbyterian Church Community House, died Jan. 18 in his Greenwich Village home at age 98.

Tafel was a resident of E. 11th St. between Fifth Ave. and University Place, where he worked and lived for more than 40 years. He was a member of the committee for the 1970 redesign of Washington Square Park, said Norman Rosenfeld, a friend and neighbor who also served on the Washington Square architectural committee with him.

Born March 12, 1912, to Russian immigrants, Edgar A. Tafel graduated from Manhattan’s Walden School and attended New York University, but left at 20 to study architecture at Taliesin, Wright’s Wisconsin colony.

As a Wright apprentice, he worked on Fallingwater, the private house cantilevered over Bear Run Creek in Pennsylvania, and the Johnson Wax Building, since demolished, in Racine, Wis., as well as Wingspread, home of Herbert F. Johnson, the company’s president, near Racine.

Although a senior apprentice to Wright, Tafel resisted the master designer’s autocratic rule and left in 1941 to work in a Chicago architectural firm. During World War II he served in Army photo intelligence in India.

Tafel returned to Manhattan after the war, qualified as an architect and designed 80 houses, 35 religious buildings and three college campuses, among many other projects. In 1960 he designed the First Presbyterian Community House, on W. 12th St. near Fifth Ave. He later designed St. John’s in the Village, on Waverly Place at W. 11th St.

Another project of his was the Protestant chapel, since demolished, at Kennedy International Airport, and the fine-arts building and a residential complex at State University of New York, Geneseo.

Tafel authored “Apprentice to Genius: Years With Frank Lloyd Wright,” published in 1979, and also “About Wright: An Album of Recollections by Those Who Knew Frank Lloyd Wright,” published in 1993.

His first marriage ended in divorce and his second wife died in 1951, according to Robert Silman, an architectural engineer and close friend of Tafel. A cousin, Joan Scott, survives. A memorial will be held on Feb. 17 at the Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place.