(this photo is from the Wikipedia page on Fallingwater--all the others were ones I took during our day trip)
Our next day trip covered a few more miles than the one to Hawk Mountain. We decided to go to Fallingwater, a place neither of us had ever seen. Fittingly, this lovely house (but, oh, so much more than a house) is a U.S. National Historic Landmark, as well as being on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
The day began with most unpromising weather--yet another day of rain. We drove across the PA Turnpike in a pouring rain that made driving anything but a delight.
Just as we reached Fallingwater, the clouds began to clear and snippets of sunshine peaked from behind the remaining clouds that were reluctant to leave.
Autumn has finally arrived--the leaves were not quite as bright as I had hoped. Autumn is my favorite time of year--and I look forward to the splashy displays of vermilion, yellow, and orange. There is just enough color now to satisfy me.
After checking in at the Visitors' Center, we waited for our tour group number to be called. Then we walked down a crunching gravel path to Fallingwater.
No photographs are permitted inside the house, so I had to content myself with views from the outside.
A little history is in order. Anyone who grew up in western Pennsylvania knows the name Kaufmann's Department Store. For decades, this department store was the height of upscale shopping. This downtown Pittsburgh store was the kind of place people got dressed up to visit. Maybe you remember the days when department stores had ladies with gloves operating the elevators. Kaufmann's was that kind of place.
By the time Edgar Kaufmann, Sr. was running the store, the Kaufmann family had a country retreat location on Bear Run, some 76 plus miles southeast of Pittsburgh. They wanted to have a house built on the location. Through various contacts, Edgar Kaufmann engaged the services of Frank Lloyd Wright. He fully expected that Wright would design a house that would face the lovely view of the waterfalls. Imagine his surprise when Wright's design called for the house to be built OVER the waterfalls.
What followed is a well-known story of twists and turns in the building process. Not only was the location a surprise, but the design itself was revolutionary. Wright called for cantilevered reinforced concrete balconies that were the primary features of the house extending over the waterfalls. The conversation flowed back and forth between Kaufmann and Wright. Some of the controversy swirled around whether or not Wright's design could, in fact, be built. Of course, eventually it was.
When Kaufmann Senior died, his son Edgar Kaufmann, jr. (who, for some reason, insisted on the lower case j for jr.) inherited some of his father's wealth along with Fallingwater. The son Edgar was an only child--and, as it happened, he was also gay. He never married, though he did have a long term partner. Since Edgar, fils, was childless, he made plans for Fallingwater to be deeded to Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which occurred in 1963.
The house was, in many ways, a glorious failure. While it was being built, the soundness of design was the subject of constant communication between Wright and Kaufmann, Sr. Eventually, during the 1990s, the house had to be reconstructed to shore up the cantilevers. The last work, which finally appears to resolved the structural problems, was done in 2002.
While the house was being built, Edgar jr. joined the fray, defending Wright. It is telling--at least to me--that when Edgar jr. was selecting a career, he eschewed retail altogether, having no interest in the life of running a chain of department stores. His passion? Art. He studied during the 1920s at the School for Arts and Crafts at the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna. He also was a residence apprentice in architecture at Wright's Taliesen East school in the mid 1930s.
Edgar jr. went on to become the Director of the Industrial Design Department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. He also authored a book on Frank Lloyd Wright.
What a day trip. Not sure if we have energy for another such trip this autumn, but if we do, I will surely let you know.