Imagine a place where architectural design, art and nature come together.
Imagine Fallingwater. Perched above a Western Pennsylvania waterfall like a great winged bird, Fallingwater was designed to be a part of the landscape that surrounds it. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the structure makes a statement without overwhelming the beautiful property. When gazing upon this amazing structure it is hard to believe that is was completed in 1939, truly a home before its time.
Less than a five hour drive West on the PA turnpike, Falling Water was built for the family of Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar J. Kauffman. Prior to the house being built, the Kauffman’s used to visit the property during the summer and on the weekends to get away from the hustle and bustle of Pittsburgh. They stayed in a rather rustic cabin with no indoor plumbing or running water, a far cry from what Wright would later build for them.
Except for the house itself, a visitor’s center and a few maintenance buildings, the property remains untouched. The Kauffman’s were kind enough to give the home and the land to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1963. Several trails have been maintained on the property. Comfy shoes are necessary for this trip since a walk down one of these gravel pathways is necessary to tour the home. Don’t miss the opportunity to take some of the side paths along the way to get a close up view of the stream that gives this house its name. One of the spurs offers the best view of the home, looking up stream at the falls and the house together. It’s a truly magnificent sight and provides a memorable photo opportunity.
A 45-minute tour is given for $8.00 per person on weekdays and $12.00 on weekends. Due to the steps in the home and considerable walking required, this is not a tour for some elderly people and those with serious medical conditions. Accommodations can be made for those with disabilities, call ahead for details. The tour covers the entranceway, living room/dinning room, all of the terraces, all of the bedrooms in the main house and the main living area of the guesthouse. Don’t miss the opportunity to gaze at the spring fed swimming pool.
At the end of the tour a cafe and gift shop are available for your perusal at the visitor’s center. The gift shop specializes in Wright inspired items such as jewelry, prints, and stained glass just to name a few. Orders can also be placed for reproduced furniture designed by Wright, mind you these are very expensive investments, but well worth drooling over if you enjoy Wright’s work.
In addition to the Kauffman property, the Conservancy owns 5,000 wild mountain acres just a 1/2 mile north of Fallingwater at the Bear Run Nature Reserve. With more than 20 miles of hiking trails, the Reserve offers opportunities for hiking, camping and ski touring. Other camp grounds and picnic sites abound in the area and a list of places to stay can be requested from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
If, once you’ve toured Fallingwater, your heart screams for more of “the Wright stuff,” you can keep it happy with another Frank Lloyd Wright home nearby. Only about a year and a half ago Kentuck Knob was opened to the public. Although not maintained by the Conservancy, flyers for Kentuck Knob can be picked up at the visitor’s center at Fallingwater. Unlike Fallingwater, which was built with horizontal planes and cantilevered “trays,” Kentuck Knob was built on a hexagonal grid. Be fair warned that a tour of Kentuck Knob can run around $15.00 on the weekends. A sculpture park and informal gardens surround the home and additional trails run throughout the property so you’ll want to keep those comfy shoes with you for this tour too. It is recommended to plan approximately two hours at Kentuck Knob. There you will find a visitor’s center, gift shop, coffee shop and a green house specializing in exotic orchids.
To get to Fallingwater: Take the PA turnpike West toward Pittsburgh, get off at the Donegal Exit and follow the signs (you will see them as soon as you get off the turnpike). I highly recommend calling ahead for reservations (you don’t need to pay ahead of time, just reserve a space on a tour.) From December 1 through December 31 and March 1 through March 31 the home is open for weekend tours only, weather permitting. Fallingwater is closed from January 1 through the end of February, so now is the perfect time to plan a March getaway. Tours are less crowded on the weekdays. Be aware that children under nine are required to remain at the Child Care Center at the visitor’s center ($2.00/hour) but children’s tours are available with advanced reservations. The fall is the most popular time to tour the house so make fall reservations several months in advance. Call Fallingwater at (412) 329-8501 for reservations and additional information (and don’t forget to ask for the lodging information).
To get to Kentuck Knob from Fallingwater: Take 381 South (right out of the Fallingwater entrance), go through Ohiopyle, cross bridge and turn right toward Cucumber Falls, go two miles, at top of hill go left, Kentuck Knob will be on the left. For more information on Kentuck Knob call (412) 329-1901.
There are a few roadside stands and diners along the way, but I recommend packing a picnic lunch. Both of these homes are in a country setting so as you travel away from the turnpike you will find fewer and fewer places to stop for food or gas. Seven Springs Ski Resort is not far and I’m told that Fallingwater is beautiful in the winter (as the pictures prove) so a Ski/house tour weekend, weather permitting, might not be a bad idea for those of you who love to play in the snow!
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN MODE MAGAZINE IN FERBUARY, 1998.
PLEASE CHECK DESTINATIONS BEFORE TRAVELING
WHAT TO BRING
Comfy shoes, comfortable clothing, a picnic lunch, camera (but beware, photos are not allowed inside the homes or during the tours), camping gear, hiking gear, skiing gear, etc.
PLACES TO EAT
Stone House Restaurant
Route 40 East
Chalk Hill, PA
River’s Edge Café
203 Yough Street Confluence, PA
PLACES TO STAY
Carousel Inn B & B
626 Cross Road
Rockwood, PA 15557
Yough Plaza Motel
Advance reservation preferred.
Originally published in MODE Magazine in February 1998.