Monday, September 29, 2014

One Of Millions

When we found ourselves in Wheeling, West Virginia for the weekend before my birthday, we immediately researched what there was to do in the area.  The closest destination was Pittsburgh, at an hour away, so that was put on the list, but I also wanted to find something else to do.  It's my favorite time of year, the leaves in the area are changing, and I wanted to explore.

Two hours east, in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, I found the place I wanted to visit:

Fallingwater was built between 1936 and 1939.  It was a home built over a waterfall to be used as a weekend retreat for department store owner Edgar Kaufmann, Sr., of Pittsburgh, and his family.  It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  It gained national attention when it made the cover of Time magazine in 1938.

Kaufmann's Department Store (since acquired by Macy's) was a high end place to shop in the 1930s. The Kaufmann's entertained many friends at Fallingwater over the year. People spilling out from the large living room area, onto the cantilevered decks hovering over the Bear Run waterfall.

The plot of land available for the house was not large enough for what the Kaufmann's requested - separate bedrooms for them, a bedroom for their son, and a guest room - so Wright used the cantilevers to solve the problem.  The back of the house was anchored into the existing rock, allowing for the cantilevers to jut out over the water, creating the individual spaces they requested.

The large deck above the stairs that lead to the stream where Mrs. Kaufmann would often take her breakfast.  She'd head down and dangle her feet in the water while she ate.
This is the small hall leading to the front door.  It's a great place to get a close-up view of the stone - which was procured from an old rock quarry just west of the house's location. It was reopened specifically to get the stone needed for the house.
 The steps, just to the left of the front door, show the only two colors used for the house - a light ochre for the concrete, and Wright's signature color, Cherokee Red, for the steel.
Interior photography was not allowed in the house, so these next three photos are from two sites online.  The first one is the great room, which was beautiful with it's expansive slate floor and windows facing nature.  It was a large open floor plan with the living, dining, and entertaining are in the same space.  The desk to the left was my favorite piece of furniture. 

Everything in the house was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  It is the only major Wright-designed house to open to the public with its furnishings, artwork, and setting intact.
The windows in the home have glass that has been mitered to created an invisible seam.  They offer no structural support at the corners when open, they're just there to bring the air and the sounds of the stream into the house.
The fireplace showcases the Cherokee Red steel that Wright liked to use, and the round kettle to the left can be swung over the fire to heat cider for large gatherings.  The stump in front is one of the American Chestnut trees that was wiped out by an Asian fungul blight, they used several of these trees to make end tables.  The only two left are the one here in the main house and one in the guest house.
These next two interior photos I took - they were featured on posters in the Visitor Center area in a display about the house, so I just took pictures of the pictures.

This is the "entertainment area" which features seating next to a stereo system.  The low floor cushions were inspired by Wright's trips to Japan.  The two banquettes against the windows in the living room area have the same couch style and hassocks in front of them.
This is the picture of the very tiny kitchen.  The small windows you see in the corner run along each floor of the house and can be opened individually to allow air to flow through the house or control the level of sound from the waterfall just below.
This pathway leads you to the other side of the house.  
As you walk down the path and turn around to look at the house, you can see the supports for the house embedded in the rock.  The cantilevered patio belongs to Mr. Kaufmann's bedroom.  I liked this patio better than the one from Mrs. Kaufmann's room because it had a better view of the water and it had shade from the trees.
This is the view of the front of the house.  You can't see it, but the guest house is nestled in the hillside behind it.
And then here is the famous view of the house, taken from the clearing across the Mill Run stream.  There wasn't as much water rushing through the stream and over the waterfalls as I've seen in other pictures, but it was an absolutely gorgeous day and the sunlight was streaming through the trees, illuminating the lush surroundings. 
I liked the house itself, especially the exterior shots that were taken with the interior lights on, but the concrete looks like the adobe of the houses out west, which I don't love at all, but which Wright was influenced by.  I also read that many people love the exterior of the house, but not the interior.  That they'd "never live there".

The main house is 5,330 square feet, but only 2,885 square feet of that is interior.  The remaining 2,445 square feet make up the terraces.  The rooms are very small, with just the essentials - bed, desk, wardrobe, bathroom.  The hallways are narrow.  And the interior is fairly dark and cave-like with all the rock.

Frank Lloyd Wright did this intentionally.  He believed people should be outside, and in this setting, even more so, and for that reason he built the rooms and interior spaces in such a way that it would push the occupants out of the house.

The Kaufmanns lived in the house until their deaths (Mrs. in 1952, Sr. in 1955), leaving the house to their only son, Edgar Kaufmann, jr.  He lived there until 1963 when he donated the house to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.  He died in 1989 at 79 years old. 

Over five million people have visited the house since then.

I've known about this house, it seems, for all my life.  I remember seeing a photo of the living room when I was young and for some reason I remember a tree inside.  I couldn't find any pictures of that memory online, but I've always thought, I need to go there.  My brother visited it when he was studying architecture in college, and I remember feeling a little twinge of jealousy.  I'm so glad I finally had the opportunity to be one of the millions of visitors.

Smithsonian includes it on their list of
28 Places To See Before You Die.  I can cross that one off now - only 25 more places to go!

To learn more, visit the
Fallingwater website and the Wikipedia page

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I Walked In The Footsteps Of Richard Gere
2012: Flower Bar
2011: A Sign For Sore Eyes
A Primm Landscape
I Am A Kandee Addict
The Tiny Intersection Where The Colors Collide
Loved Shack
Holy Mother Of Pearl
The Starfish Effect


Gil said...

Wow! What a great write-up on this historic place! I bet that you could sell to them for a brochure. Pictures are so professional.

mick said...

Totally amazing. Is there a particular website where you do your research when looking for what there is to do in an area?

The Daily Rant said...

GIL: Thanks!

MICK: Glad you liked the post. I use everything I can find on the internet. I usually start with the state, city or county visitors bureaus, then other respected sources, like the NY Times, Guardian Travel section, travel company websites (Fodors, Travel & Leisure, Budget Travel, etc.).

As for what I write up, I use all of those sources in addition to the official website for the attraction itself. As a last resort, I'll use Wikipedia. It has a lot of good info, but if I can't verify it somewhere else, I don't use it.

Anonymous said...

If you're ever in Grand Rapids, MI go to the FLW "Meyer May House" - it's almost as cool as Falling Water. It's now owned by Steelcase and is open to the public Tues., Thurs., & Sun. 10 - 2 (you get a docent tour for free).

The Daily Rant said...

ANONYMOUS: We'll have to keep it on our list of things to see in Michigan. I've never heard of it, so thanks for the great tip!

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