A Trip To Fallingwater

I’ve done a fair amount of traveling during the 69 years I’ve taken up space on Planet Earth. Been to Asia (Nepal). And to the Middle East (Israel). And to North Africa (Egypt). And to various countries in Europe any number of times. And I’ve been here and there in the States and Canada. How about Pennsylvania, then, the state I’ve lived in since my late 20s? Well, I’m nicely familiar with its greater Philadelphia region, which is my home territory, but outside of that orb I haven’t ventured all too much. And in the last couple of years I’ve been thinking about what I may have been missing. A trip to Ohio via the Pennsylvania Turnpike that my wife Sandy and I made a few weeks ago drove the point home pretty decisively. “Wow, look at all these mountains and farms. Who knew?” I said to Sandy more than once during that westward journey. “It’s time to explore Pennsylvania. Let’s do plenty of that before the sands of time run out on us.” Those weren’t my exact words, but they are close enough.

Smartly, we had already planned a day and a half of discovery in the Keystone State. On the way back from Ohio (you can read about the Ohio visit by clicking here) we drove to Uniontown, a less-than-flourishing community nestled in southwestern Pennsylvania, where we had booked a hotel room. The following day, Monday, would be our visit to Fallingwater, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home that has become a tourist destination. Neither Sandy nor I had ever been in southwestern Pennsylvania before.

To be honest, I feel a little guilty writing about Fallingwater. It’s not as if the world needs any more mentions of the place, as the 2,400,000+ Google results for Fallingwater obviously prove. But what’s a blogger to do? I considered typing an opus about what I ate for breakfast this morning (strong coffee, and Wheaties with blueberries), but opted instead for Wright’s creation. Nobody wants to read about my breakfast, not even me, no matter how delicious it was. Fallingwater it is.

To summarize Fallingwater’s history: Edgar Kaufmann, a department store magnate who lived in Pittsburgh with his wife Lillian and son Edgar Jr., commissioned the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright to build a weekend/vacation home for the family. The house was to be set within the enormous, heavily-forested swath of land that the Kaufmanns owned in the Allegheny Mountains. That plot was (and is) about 50 miles from Pittsburgh. Wright completed his design in 1935. Two years later the house was in place, and two years after that a guest house, uphill from the main residence and connected to it by a short cement span, went up. In 1963, some years after the death of his parents, Junior donated Fallingwater and the family’s mountain acreage to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, a land and water protection organization. The Conservancy opened the buildings and grounds to the public in 1964, and before long Fallingwater caught on. Really caught on. To date, upwards of 5,000,000 visitors have toured the facilities. For a place that some might describe as being in the middle of nowhere, that’s genuinely impressive.

Photo by Sandra Cherrey Scheinin

And here’s why they keep on coming: Fallingwater’s exterior looks better than just about any house that you’ll ever see. It is sleek, lovingly tiered, rustically handsome and highly imaginatively laid out. And the house’s placement is, as they say, unparalleled. It is built atop and alongside boulders, a few of which poke out into the living spaces. And, rather incredibly, it is perched above a descending stream at the point where the waters – you guessed it – fall over rocks. A waterfall! A modest waterall, to be sure, but beautiful nonetheless. Fallingwater, a looker in an admirable, peaceful way, communes righteously with the natural environment that surrounds it. Harmony definitely prevails.

After breakfast on Monday, Sandy and I jumped into our car and drove the 25 miles, half of them along winding country roads, that separate Uniontown from Fallingwater. Our tour, scheduled for 11:00 AM, began on time. Twenty or so folks were in our tour group. The guide, alas, informed us that photography wouldn’t be allowed within the house. Nor would touching of the objects. Bummer. The interior shots I’ve included in this humble essay, therefore, are photos that I’ve snatched off the Internet. By the way, Fallingwater’s room arrangements and furnishings have been left pretty much as they were when Junior turned over the keys to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Photo by Jeffrey Neal

Most of the tour took place inside, as opposed to outside, Fallingwater. My memory being duller than a butter knife, let me pass on a few recollections before they fade into oblivion. First, I dug Wright’s color scheme. Earth tones predominate. They make for a calming, comforting experience, which without doubt was his intention. And I was surprised to learn that Wright designed not only Fallingwater’s structure, but many of its objects – desks, cabinets, chairs and tables. And they are beautiful. The guy was something else. Was there anything he couldn’t do? Well, he couldn’t walk on the waters of the stream flowing beneath the house, right? Or maybe he could.

Photo by Brad Ford

I noticed a couple of broad wooden desks, wedged into corners, that have portions of their tops neatly cut away so as to allow windows to swing open. Brilliant idea! And I spent some time in Junior’s bedroom looking over the smallish but swell collection of books on his shelves. They reflect an open and bright mind. Among them are the 10-volume set of The World’s Best Essays, a long-forgotten collection published in 1900. I’d have loved to pull out one or two of the volumes to take a look at the wisdom contained therein. But that wouldn’t have been a wise move, as the tour guide might have dragged me off the premises by the few strands of hair remaining on my head had I attempted to satisfy my innocent desire.

The one-hour tour over, Sandy and I headed down a trail that paralleled the stream and led into deep forest country. Rhododendron bushes grew in numbers you’re unlikely to see elsewhere. Oak and maple trees flourished, as did a variety of evergreens. It felt good to get lost, metaphorically, in the woods for a while. Take more forest walks is something I’ve added to my to-do-soon list. Forests don’t exist in my paved-over home area, but a few are within reasonable driving distance.

The next morning we drove home, southwestern Pennsylvania before long disappearing from our rear view mirror. Now, I’m not going to say that this rural region of Pennsylvania is a must-see destination. For those who groove on mountain hiking or fishing or rafting, it’s absolutely A-OK. For those not of that persuasion but who are passing through the area or taking in the sights in Pittsburgh, here’s the thing: You could do a lot worse than make the drive to Fallingwater. Sandy and I agree that Fallingwater made our trip worthwhile. The place is a beaut.

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70 thoughts on “A Trip To Fallingwater

  1. Yeah, Another Blogger July 13, 2017 / 7:52 am

    Hi. I took only a handful of photos in Uniontown. It’s a sizeble old town that was bustling in the era when the steel and coal industries were big. These days it is trying to hang in there. Nearby malls are where people shop these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rosanne Hallowell July 13, 2017 / 8:11 am

    When Will and I visited Fallingwater–more than 10 years ago now, I think–we were fortunate in that our tour guide was the grandson of the Fallingwater caretaker, and he remembered playing there as a kid. In 2013, during a trip to Wisconsin, we visited at Taliesin, Johnson Wax, and several other Wright sites. That was a memorable trip too!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 13, 2017 / 8:54 am

      Morning, Roseanne. Another FLW building that I’ve always liked a lot is the Guggenheim art museum in New York City.
      Thanks for adding your thoughts. Take care.

      Like

  3. The Artist's Child July 13, 2017 / 8:42 am

    Stunning architecture and scenery. Frank Lloyd Wright was a genius. Thank you for sharing your photos and experiences of such a treasure. It’s great to see that the decor of the period is so well preserved. It looks like people still live there.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lexklein July 13, 2017 / 9:27 am

    I may be a bit biased, but I think western PA, including Pittsburgh and the Laurel Highlands area east of the city (where you were, and where I grew up) is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Like you, I’ve traveled the world, but when I go back home to our little place up in the mountains just a few miles from Fallingwater, I am in hilly, woodsy heaven.

    The Kaufmanns (and Mellons and Carnegies and Fricks and … all those old industrialists and other millionaires) built their country homes in these highlands for a reason, and I wish you’d had more time to explore the area. The old general store and pie shop in Jones Mills, the charming gazebo, upscale shopping, and French and Indian War fort in Ligonier, the rough and tumble Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle, and even some wineries scattered around (these I have to admit are not of the highest quality, but they sure are peaceful places to visit!).

    I’m glad you enjoyed Fallingwater and helped support the Western PA Conservancy, an excellent organization dedicated to preserving the area’s land and waters for many decades. Head back west again some weekend!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 13, 2017 / 12:06 pm

      Hi. I wish I had asked you for advice before I went to southwest PA!
      Obviously I missed some things that I shouldn’t have missed.
      If I get back there again I’ll do a better job of exploring the area.

      Thanks for stopping by, Lexie. I appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • lexklein July 13, 2017 / 12:07 pm

        Let me know if you head back – I have lots of good places to send you!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. C C Cedras July 13, 2017 / 10:32 am

    Fallingwater has ALWAYS been on my list, but you’ve just made me move it up a few places. The closest I’ve ever come to an actual FLW building was the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo where I’ve stayed a number of times. The original FLW building was demolished in the late 60s and replaced by a sky rise, but the design elements throughout the hotel are very much influenced by FLW’s work. It’s a lovely place.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 13, 2017 / 11:59 am

      Hello C.C
      My wife volunteers at a food pantry that is inside a FLW-designed synagogue. I don’t like the design. But Fallingwater — Yes!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. greenpete58 July 13, 2017 / 11:15 am

    I went to boarding school in western Pennsylvania, and made a school trip to Fallingwater, and it’s indeed beautiful, with lots of trees and rolling hills. There’s also a very good ski area near Fallingwater, called Seven Springs (which I’ve yet to visit).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 13, 2017 / 12:10 pm

      Hello Pete. I want to get to other parts of Pennsylvania pretty soon. Gettysburg, for one.

      And I’ve read about the beautiful areas in northern PA. I think that it’s route 6 that takes you thru those areas.

      Like

  7. Julie Yates July 13, 2017 / 12:58 pm

    Amazing that the interior almost looks like a photo shot from a current Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel Catalog. What’s old is new again or perhaps Falling Waters is just timeless? At any rate – both outside and inside is beautiful. Thanks for sharing this enjoyable post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 13, 2017 / 1:46 pm

      Hi Julie. I guess you could call that style “rustic chic,” or something like that. Maybe that look started in the 1920s or 30s?

      Like

  8. everythingsundry July 13, 2017 / 3:28 pm

    Thanks for sharing your trip to Fallingwater with us. I hope to make it out that way at some point. Looks so bucolic.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. sniderjerry July 13, 2017 / 5:25 pm

    You should change the name of your blog to “On The Road With Charles Kuralt” Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

  10. hairytoegardener July 13, 2017 / 6:54 pm

    I’ve visited many states, but Pennsylvania wasn’t one of them. I’m fairly certain I’d like your state because from all I’ve read and from what I’ve been told by people who have visited it, it’s green and beautiful. Obviously, I’ve not been to Fallingwater, but have seen photos of it in books. Beautiful house and land. I’ve been on a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park home in Illinois which was interesting. His homes are more than inspiring. I almost purchased a Frank Lloyd Wright knock-off home in Arkansas. The house was gorgeous online, but I learned the property had been subdivided with a pig farm on one side, which is why it wasn’t selling. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. swabby429 July 14, 2017 / 7:33 am

    I read somewhere that FLW not only designed the furnishings and accessories for his brilliant homes, but he made the owners agree to never alter the interior design schemes by selling the original furniture nor adding new furniture. He was supposedly quite tyrannical about this.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Alyson July 14, 2017 / 9:11 am

    What a lovely post for someone like me who has never seen a Frank Lloyd Wright building in the flesh so to speak – Love the design, the interiors and his obvious creative genius. Isn’t is great how we can travel the world but then find some amazing finds right on our our doorsteps – And, not having to deal with a climate very different from our own so all very comfortable and comforting.

    I am reminded of the Simon and Garfunkel song “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright” – a challenge given to Paul Simon by trained architect Art. Paul didn’t even know who FLW was at the time but managed to come up with something quite special with different layers of meaning.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 14, 2017 / 10:17 am

      You know, I’d completely forgotten about Paul Simon’s song. Haven’t heard it in a long time. It’s a beautiful tune. I think it might have been on the final studio album that S&G recorded.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts, Alyson. Appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Apple Hill Cottage July 14, 2017 / 9:27 am

    You were in my backyard! Kentuck Knob is another FLW house nearby. And we enjoyed it more than Falling Water. You have to come back and see it. When you do, stay in Pbgh. And take in a Bucs/Phillies game.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. K E Garland July 14, 2017 / 10:52 pm

    You make this place sound beautiful Neil! You ever thought about being a local travel blogger?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 15, 2017 / 6:56 am

      Morning, Kathy. I guess I like writing about a mix of different topics. But local travel will always be a part of this blog — I,e. the Philadelphia area.

      Thanks a lot for stopping by. I appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. DS July 15, 2017 / 1:22 pm

    We’ve seen dozens of FLW buildings, but Falling Water remains our favorite.

    DS

    Liked by 1 person

  16. cincinnatibabyhead July 15, 2017 / 6:44 pm

    “The old checking out my own backyard trick”. Amazing what we have right in front of us. “Forest Walks” are a must in CB’s life. Fortunate to live in a place where i have a lot of outdoor beauty in my own backyard. How do bears and cougars grab ya?. No moss grows on you Neil. Good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. The Antipodean Blatherer July 16, 2017 / 7:10 am

    Although I have previously read about some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses, it is in fact, worthwhile for you to write about your visit, so that someone like me can read a personal experience of visiting the house. It’s nice to read a post about a famous architectural landmark that is written from the perspective of the appreciative layperson with no other agenda – pretty much what I’d be if I was ever lucky enough to visit the house myself. It’s beautiful architecture. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 17, 2017 / 1:07 pm

      Hi. Thanks, but I have to decline. I mean no disrespect by this. Last year I was nominated for an award and it took up a good bit of time for me to complete the process. I don’t really have the time to go thru the process again. I hope you understand. I like your blog and will continue to look at your articles.
      Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. andrewcferguson July 17, 2017 / 12:40 pm

    Right up my metaphorical street, Neil. We’re in Madrid at the moment, just back from the northern Spanish city of Leon, where we visited one of the few Antonio Gaudi-designed buildings outside of Barcelona, Casa Botines. Like FLW, his design went right down to small details, like window catches and door knobs.

    If you ever make it over to Scotland, I’ll send you to Hill House, which is the masterpiece designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the early twentieth century Scottish architect and designer (although his wife Margaret was actually behind most of the stunning interiors). That was for a publisher of the time: rich guys aren’t always popular, but when they commission things of beauty like these houses, and they end up in the hands of the nation, you can forgive them a bit!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 17, 2017 / 1:12 pm

      Hi Andrew. Have a great time in Madrid.
      I saw a short item in the newspaper today: A day or two ago there was flooding at Fallingwater. The house wasn’t damaged, but the waters knocked over a sculpture near the house. Those kinds of events probably have happened there a bunch of times over the years.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. aprilswopegreene July 17, 2017 / 3:09 pm

    I’ve always wanted to see this place. Thanks for the virtual tour, Neil!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Cindy Frank July 17, 2017 / 6:40 pm

    Lovely, Neal. Legend says that Frank Lloyd Wright, procrastinated on the final design until the Kaufmans were set to drive down from Pittsburgh. He completed the whole design in an hour. But of course it had been mulling in his head for ages. Moreover, Wright completed this iconic design in the supposed “twilightt’ of his career, when was 67 and
    been relegated to essentially a has been. The Guggenheim was to follow…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 17, 2017 / 7:59 pm

      Hi Cindy. I love his Guggenheim Museum design. I vaguely remember when it opened. It opened in 1959, the year in which he died.

      Like

  21. Joyce July 18, 2017 / 3:58 pm

    Really interesting ! I will put it on my list. Sorry it took so long to read . Another interesting tour near Valley Forge is Wharton Esherick home!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 18, 2017 / 4:04 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Joyce.

      For quite a while I’ve had it in mind to visit the Esherick place. Hope to get there in the near future.

      Like

  22. ralietravels July 21, 2017 / 11:36 am

    I think we visited in 1987 and you captured my memories of it perfectly, the architecture, the setting. You make me want to go back.
    Thanks for visiting my blog. If you set out on such a trip again, you might want to allow more time for exploring. And you might also want to go back to my blog and click on “signts listed by state” for ideas for places to stop.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Pazlo July 26, 2017 / 12:35 pm

    Very nicely done!
    To share your experience and bring light to a valuable and cherished American icon.
    Only downside…I was left wondering what was breakfast on Tuesday?
    (JK)

    Seek peace,

    Paz

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 26, 2017 / 1:37 pm

      Paz, thanks for visiting. I appreciate it.

      Breakfast? — maybe it was a PB&J sandwich. And coffee. I always have coffee in the morning.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. SpiritualJourney17 July 28, 2017 / 9:48 pm

    I was surprised to find out that the National Geographic Traveler magazine named Fallingwater one of its “50 Places of a Lifetime.” I may have to visit one day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 28, 2017 / 10:12 pm

      Hi.
      Well, the place is beautiful and unusual. And definitely worth a visit.
      But is it among the 50 best places to visit in the world? Nah. In Italy alone there are far, far more than 50 places that I’d rather visit than Fallingwater.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. D-Claire July 30, 2017 / 1:39 am

    It’s such a beautiful house. In many ways, I’d rather read a personal account like yours and see “real” photos than a glossy magazine piece. Really want to go there now. Maybe one day!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Wandering Dawgs July 31, 2017 / 6:08 am

    I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for taking us along on your tour and telling the history of the home.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Sheree August 6, 2017 / 3:10 pm

    Seen some of FLW’s early work at Oak Park but Fallingwater is stunning – serious property porn!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger August 6, 2017 / 4:26 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Sheree.

      I haven’t seen many of his buildings. Of those I’ve seen, including Fallingwater,I think I like the Guggenheim Museum the best.

      Like

  28. Browsing the Atlas August 7, 2017 / 2:14 pm

    Fallingwater may have a million hits on Google, but I’d never heard of it until your blog post. And it’s not even that far from me! Just one state away. I’m making a note to check it out on my next drive through Pennsylvania.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. viewfromoverthehill August 8, 2017 / 8:25 pm

    Ah, you live in/near Philadelphia! I was there in the 50s. Remember visiting a famous Alley, where an old couple invited my friend and I into their garden for tea and a chat. It was lovely. Loved the city. Thanks for this adventure, Muriel Kauffmann

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger August 8, 2017 / 9:10 pm

      Hello Muriel.
      You might have been on Elfreth’s Alley. Supposedly it has been inhabited continuously for a longer time than any other street in the USA.

      Like

      • viewfromoverthehill August 8, 2017 / 9:35 pm

        Yes, that was it. I just couldn’t remember how to spell it. I feel so lucky that this elderly couple decided two young Canadian girls were harmless and invited us in. They also knew the history of the Alley. I loved it. Loved the city! Thanks, Muriel

        Liked by 1 person

  30. Courtney Konigshofer August 17, 2017 / 6:57 am

    This makes me want to explore America. I only saw bits and pieces of tourist traps as a child. Thanks for the insight

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger August 17, 2017 / 2:12 pm

      Hello Courtney. There’s definitely a lot to see in the USA. You’ll enjoy the visit.

      Like

  31. Margy August 25, 2017 / 10:00 am

    I’d like to see Fallingwater someday. We took a tour of Taliesen West last year (Scottsdale AZ). While Wright’s beloved winter home was fascinating in itself, the descriptions of why he built it the way he did were very compelling. It made me look at our two abodes (our Canadian home and our AZ snowbird place) with new eyes. How do our rooms and outdoor spaces fit with the land and the environment!?

    I’m looking forward to wandering through your blog now that I’ve found it. Glad you left your calling card at my place so I could find yours!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger August 25, 2017 / 11:36 am

      Hello Margy. Thanks for stopping by.
      I didn’t know about Wright’s house in Arizona. Maybe one of these days I’ll see it.
      Take care —

      Like

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