Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob

Homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

 

Fallingwater

We had tried to visit Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob many times during the last few years, but our plans always seemed to run astray.   This time we did not make any definitive plans and when we had a few days without any immediate commitments, we drove to Western Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh, where the Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob homes are located. 

             These homes were designed by the architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.   Throughout his illustrious career he has created unique architectural designs all over the world.   As an example, the enormously prominent structure that he designed is The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, a modern art museum located in New York City.

             But Fallingwater is a particularly special design because in it, Frank Lloyd Wright designed the house into the natural landscape of the mountains of western Pennsylvania.  Finished in 1937 at a cost of $155,000, the private home of the Kaufmann family was their weekend residence for almost the next forty years, before being turned over to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. 

             The Kaufmann family wanted a house designed so that they could readily observe the waterfall that was on their property, but Frank Lloyd Wright studied the topography and decided to place the house so that the waterfall became an integral element of the design.  He wanted the Kaufmann family to “feel” the presence of the waterfall by being able to hear it from every room and to see it from every balcony strategically placed around the house.   

             Architectural designs in and around the late 19th century and early 20th century especially in the Midwestern regions of the country were nicknamed …..Prairie House designs.  These designs incorporated horizontal lines, flat or hipped roofs with overhanging eaves, windows that were grouped in horizontal bands and the houses were integrated with the landscape. The horizontal lines relate to the native prairie landscape. 

Fallingwater reflects this type of design and is probably one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most notable achievements for its unique incorporation of the natural surroundings and the comfort of the inhabitants.  It has been written that Frank Lloyd Wright created this organically designed home which brought together the land and the user.

             As you walk toward Fallingwater in this heavily wooded setting you begin to hear the sound of the running water. The resonance of the water gradually gets louder and louder and as you approach, this magnificent house appears just above the waterfall as a natural part of the landscape.

             Concrete designed cantilevered balconies protrude out from almost every room of the house; the stone on the walls both inside and outside of the center of the house are a natural, integral part of the surroundings and the low roof lines are consistent with the geography of the land.   As you watch the water flowing down from under the house to the ground below you begin to appreciate the meaning of this design and the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright.

            Inside the house, you immediately sense the ceilings that are very low by conventional standards because while Frank Lloyd Wright was rather short, he also believed that any ceiling higher than five feet ten inches was wasteful.  But in fact, he believed that high ceilings immediately draw the viewer’s eye up and away from the center of the room.   I personally found the ceilings too low; giving me a sensation of claustrophobia. 

             Bedrooms were kept rather simple and not too large.   Consisting of a single bed and maybe a desk and/or a bookcase, the furniture was built as an integral part of the room.   Frank Lloyd Wright did this to permit the rooms to be smaller and he was so concerned with the design of the furniture that by making it part of the room, he was able to assure the architectural balance.    

            In the center of the house was the stone fireplace that extended through to the outside walls.   Where there was stone as part of the mountain landscape, that stone became an integral part of the floor.  

          

           Hallways were generally quite narrow as the space used for the halls was not believed to be very practical.   And as stated earlier, each room of the house opened to one of the cantilevered balconies.   

            Windows were used extensively throughout the house to both bring the outside in and to provide adequate cooling in the summer.   Glass doors opened to balconies and were used along a full wall in the great room.  Light and nature marked Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for Fallingwater.

             We were not allowed to take pictures inside the home and because of the setting, there were few places where pictures could be taken from the outside.  Going to Fallingwater was well worth the trip.  I would recommend that reading or watching documentaries about the life of Frank Lloyd Wright would prove beneficial before such a visit.

Kentuck Knob

             Kentuck Knob was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright later in his career.   It was designed in the 1950s for the Hagan family who were friends of the Kaufmann family.   The Hagan’s, who knew the Kaufmann’s, had purchased land not too far from Falling Water and wanted Frank Lloyd Wright to design their home.  He was quite busy with other projects, but he consented and asked that the topographic plans be sent to him. 

             Without visiting the location, Wright designed the home that became known as Kentuck Knob and only saw it first hand when it neared completion.   He designed the house into a ridge on one of the Allegheny Mountain peaks with a sweeping view of the Youghiogheny River gorge as well as the surrounding hills and farmland.  

            Wright did not choose the top of the peak, instead picking a lower location and so situating the house that it once again organically became part of the landscape.   He chose red cypress, glass, and native sandstone to build the home and used a copper roof to construct the house.  Again the lines are horizontal and low to the ground using many windows/glass doors to line the patios that provided the access to these magnificent views.

 

            The Palumbo family from England who purchased the house from the Hagan’s created a sculpture meadow near the base of their eighty acres.  While not nearly as imposing as Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob did continue Frank Lloyd Wright’s design of what is described as “Usonian” homes.

 

As discussed in Wikipedia, Usonian is described as:

           “The "Usonian Homes" were typically small, single story dwellings without a garage or much storage, L-shaped to fit around a garden terrace on odd (and cheap) lots, and environmentally conscious with native materials, flat roofs and large cantilevered overhangs for passive solar heating and natural cooling, natural lighting with clerestory windows, and radiant floor heating. A strong visual connection between the interior and exterior spaces is an important characteristic of all Usonian homes.

 

           A very interesting facet of Kentuck Knob, as in the other homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is the design of the furniture as an organic part of the house and is then both flexible and versatile.  In Kentuck Knob much of the furniture was designed using the same red cypress wood we see on the outside and inner walls of the home. 

 Once again it was not possible to take pictures inside the house.  

 

 

Nemocolin Woodlands Resort

Nemocolin is a very rare and interesting resort situated in the Alleghany Mountains about one hour from Pittsburgh and about twenty minutes from Uniontown.  This resort is owned by the Hardy family, who founded and currently manages the 84 Lumber Company.  It sits on 3,000 acres with its famous Chateau LaFayette hotel which is unique for its classic lodging excellence.

           It was designed to equal or replicate the luxury hotels of Europe with ambiance, service and cuisine.   Each guest enters into a grand foyer; and every room has high ceilings and crystal chandeliers.  The resort has an elegant French dining room as well as other restaurants and exceptional guest services.

           On the property, there is also a five-star butler serviced hotel adjacent to the NPGA golf course, a lodge, and private luxury homes for rent as well as townhouses.  There is an internationally known spa, two golf courses, shooting academy, equestrian center, off-road driving academy, an antique car museum, an aircraft landing strip, ski facilities, and cooking classes, wine tastings and a cigar bar.  

           The Nemocolin Woodlands resort continues to astonish and delight every guest with its amazing facilities each day of the year.  During our stay at Nemocolin we visited Fallingwater one morning and Kentuck Knob the next.  Each afternoon, we would ride the Nemocolin shuttle to explore the many offerings of this resort.   And then of course we had a dinner experience in one of the resort’s restaurants.