On Monday, July 4th, my sister Soiyete, niece Ariana, Mom and Aunt Pat visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous architectural design, Fallingwater, in Mill Run, Pennsylvania (about 63 miles from Pittsburgh).
From the website: Fallingwater is the name of a very special house that is built over a waterfall. Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s most famous architect, designed the house for his clients, the Kaufmann family. Fallingwater was built between 1936 and 1939. It instantly became famous, and today it is a National Historic Landmark.
Who are the Kaufmanns? The Kaufmann family owned a chain of fashionable department stores, now known as Macy’s. The family paid Wright to design this house, and future department stores. Now, on to the house….
We visited the house on the way home from Ohio, about four hours away from DC. After turning onto a one-lane road from the highway near Mill Run, we drove for what seemed like an hour over hills and through valleys until we arrived at Fallingwater.
A visit to Fallingwater costs $20 for adults and $14 for children. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which now owns the house, also offers an “in-depth tour” for $67. That means I can’t take pictures inside the house for my measly 20 bucks! Anywho, we’re here…
Oh yeah, you have to make reservations to tour Fallingwater. You can’t just show up and pay and see it. So we made our reservation for four adults and one child, and paid upon entry, before parking.
Entrance to the pathway to Fallingwater
And then I saw an inchworm. Oh yes, I brought my camera with me anyway. There were plenty of other visitors milling about and they all had cameras around their necks. So although I knew I couldn’t photograph inside the house, I brought my camera with me anyway.
What, this pathway doesn’t lead to the house? No, it doesn’t, it leads to this octogonal waiting area. Here, you can register and get your group number and wait until your group is called.
It was a bit humid, but Soiyete and I were excited to see the house.
Ariana was excited too, and began to entertain us with random stories about her classmates, Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber.
Hungry? There’s a Fallingwater Cafe in the waiting area. How thoughtful.
I took photos of the local fashion.
But boy was it a long wait. It was a little bit like being at the MVA, waiting for our numbered group to be called.
There was a gift shop for Fallingwater and a beautiful history room about the Kaufmann family. But after a while, even Ariana got bored.
Then on the loudspeaker, we heard “Group 33, now calling Group 33 to begin your tour of Fallingwater. Please begin your journey down the pathway to the house.” Word?
In case we weren’t sure which direction the house was in.
Long walk. But it was beautiful along the way.
We neared a gravel driveway, parted the trees (not really) and there it was! Fallingwater. Check out Too Cool Ariana in front of the house before our tour began.
Aunt Pat and my mom
Me and Fallingwater
And our tour begins. This is our tourguide, Roy, and his walking stick. Apparently, all of the tourguides employ walking sticks, whether they need them or not.
Here you can see how Fallingwater is such a masterpiece of architecture. There are no beams to support the levels of this house over this waterfall. You can literally walk from the main level, down these steps and sit on the bottom level of the house, and fish, with your feet bathing in the running water.
We entered the house and marveled at the construction, while at the same time thinking, “this place smells like my grandma’s house.” Old is old. It was built 75 years ago! But the furniture was like contemporary 60s chic. (photos courtesy of Wikipedia and Lee Sandstead)
The Kaufmanns were some seriously swanky people. They loved to entertain and hosted plenty of parties here. See that big red ball hanging on the wall? It’s 200 pounds, made of cast iron and is made to insert coal and then swing inside the firepit (behind it) and opened to warm the room in the winter. The floor is made completely of stone and was terribly uneven, yet beautiful. Because of this, the Kaufmanns rejected Wright’s original Asian barrel chair suggestion for the dining room, and opted for a three-legged version. Smart people. (Photos courtesy Lee Sandstead)
The barrel chair
vs. the three-legged chair
We walked outside onto the balcony on the main level of the house…and looked down.
See the edge of the balcony where my niece’s hand is? The top of the ledge ended just above my knee. Which means a hard breeze could potentially send me over the edge to a watery grave. No way a house like that would be built today.
There was a kitchen, but we weren’t allowed to see it. Maybe they thought we’d break something. [Photos courtesy of ZDNet]
We viewed the rest of the rooms of the house and noticed beautiful art, crazy narrow staircases without railings, windows that defied physics, impossibly tiny beds and hallways, low toilets and bathroom sinks. I wondered, were these Kaufmann people incredibly successful dwarves? [photo courtesy of Lee Sandstead and ZDNet]
17 panes of vertical windows
Windows without corner joists. Wright designed these, and the rest of the house, so that you can open them and be one with nature.
There’s also a guest house! That’s right, and it’s higher up the hill from the main residence, which is equally as beautiful as the main house, at about a third of the size. You can walk from the main house to the guesthouse under this awesome multi-leveled canopy.
We exited the house through the quadruple carport. The Kaufmanns originally wanted garages, but Wright famously told them that cars are not horses that might run away in the night, and didn’t need doors to keep them inside.
What a beautiful house! We walked the path to the “classic view” to photograph the house on it’s famous double waterfall. Ariana celebrated the house by dancing the Dougie at the classic view.
…and then the Cat Daddy, she loves that dance
Fallingwater is awesome! Go see it for yourself!