For the fifth time in six years, Mr. Right and I planned a bicycle ride from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. a few weeks ago. Two days before we were scheduled to leave, I developed a respiratory infection, and it knocked me flat. There was no way I could ride a bicycle. So, we went to a Plan B. We drove to Pittsburgh and spent the night there. The following morning Mr. Right rode out alone, and I drove. We decided I would drive each day and meet him at each of the bed and breakfasts we had already booked. We spent our first night at Connellsville, PA. After reading this book a couple of years ago, visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater was added to my bucket list. Fallingwater is located just 14 miles from Connellsville. Biking to Fallingwater is not encouraged because the roads are so steep and mountainous, but since I was driving this time, I was able to go. After driving to Fallingwater, I was sooooo glad we were told we couldn’t cycle there.
To give you some background info, Fallingwater is a summer cottage built in 1935 for the Kaufman family of Pittsburgh, PA. (They owned a famous department store and were loaded.) They hired Frank Lloyd Wright, who was then in his 60’s, to design it.
The house is built right on top of a water fall, and that’s how it got its name. Wright used rocks as part of the foundation and built the house using them. Part of the fireplace is a rock that is sticking out of the floor. He was the one who started open-concept living.
It is considered an architectural wonder, and it put FLW back on the map after his career had started to slow down. Although it was not my style, I was blown away by the design, the concept behind the design, the engineering it took to pull it off, the details he put into it, and the fact that it is still standing after all of these years.
We were not allowed to take photos inside, but I was glad. Sometimes we spend so much time getting the photos that we aren’t in the moment, and I wanted to soak in every element of that house.
Not only did FLW design the home, but he also designed the furniture, the lights, etc. It was somewhat compact. He stood 5 feet 8 inches tall, and he built the homes to fit someone of his stature. The average price of a home in Pittsburgh at the time was $4,500, and Mr. Kaufman budgeted $20,000 for the cottage. It ended up costing $150,000. When you consider that it was built during the depression, that’s a lot of money to spend on a week-end home. They used the home almost every week-end. It was located in the absolute middle of nowhere on their 2,000 acres, and they either drove or took a train to get there. They only had one son who did not marry, and he turned it over to a non-profit who owns and runs it today.
The following day I was able to visit Kentuck Knob, another one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs. It is located in the same area as Fallingwater, just a few miles away. It was built for the Hagan family who owned a local ice cream company. Hagan ice cream is still being sold, and I had a cone when I visited Kentuck Knob. It is much smaller and not as grand as Fallingwater. The Hagan family lived there full time for 20 years, and Mr. Hagan commuted to work every day driving on the curvy, mountainous road to his company.
Kentuck Knob is now owned by a British family ( Mr. and Mrs. Peter Palumbo), and they visit a few weeks each year but stay in another house on the property. Like many British families who own expensive estates, they open the doors to the public to help cover the expenses of maintaining it. The day I visited, it was dark and stormy, and the house was dark on the inside.
There was also a sculpture garden that the Palumbos have added. We were not allowed to take photos indoors there either, and the exterior shape of the house made it difficult to get a good shot.
If you are ever in the area and only have time to visit one of the homes, choose Fallingwater. Be sure to buy your tickets ahead of time online. They do advance sells to control the number of people who are there at any one time. All tours in both homes are guided by knowledgeable docents. The parking lot is small.
In case you are wondering, Mr. Right did make it to DC. He pedaled every mile alone, bless his heart. I met up with him in DC, and we stayed a few days with our son Cory and his wife Josie before driving back to Lexington.
Affiliate link used.