Location: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater in the Laurel Highlands
Featured guests: Justin Gunther, director of Fallingwater and vice president of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
3 things that surprised me:
1. Frank Lloyd Wright designed Fallingwater for Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann, owners of Pittsburgh’s famous Kaufmann’s Department Store in the 1930s. The Fayette County house was completed in 1937, but it wasn’t the Kaufmanns’ permanent residence — it was their weekend party house. The house was designed — unusually at the time — with an open layout making it perfect for hosting get-togethers. The living/dining room now has a small table but the room’s sideboards can be folded open to form a much longer table. The house proved so popular with visitors that the Kaufmanns built a guest house just up the hill in 1939 that was also designed by Wright.
2. Before Fallingwater was built, the Kaufmanns had a small cabin on the property. They’d come down regularly to hike around the property and they loved to sit on a large rock by the waterfall. Justin explained that when Wright designed the house, he incorporated this beloved rock, which juts out of the floor just in front of the living room fireplace.
3. The basement is painted the same shade of red as the rest of the house and is filled with various pipes and storage lockers. It even has a Pittsburgh potty, which is now the only functioning toilet in the historic house.
One thing that didn’t make the final cut: Edgar Kaufmann Jr., son and heir of Edgar Sr. and Liliane, lived primarily in New York, but he would take an overnight train from New York City to Bear Run to visit the house. Once the overnight train was discontinued, his visits became less frequent. In 1963, Edgar Kaufmann Jr. entrusted the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy with preserving the house and the surrounding land.
Additional info: You can learn more about Fallingwater and reserve a tour at the website.