April 15, 1998

Liliane S. and Edgar J. Kaufmann, Sr., Residence (Fallingwater)

I have wanted to visit Fallingwater ever since I saw a picture of it in the ninth grade. This past week while Laurene and Samantha were on vacation, I took the opportunity to drive the six hours through Pennsylvania to visit Fallingwater. Even after having built up my expectations over the years, I was not disappointed. The pictures in books just do not do it justice. 

The extended tour started at 8:30 am. It lasts about two hours and unlike the normal tour, we were allowed to take pictures. There are many sources of better pictures of course, so I am just including a few shots here to give a feel for the tour. It's well worth the trip if you're in the Pittsburgh area.
Probably the nicest surprise about the visit to Fallingwater is that it has not been commercialized. There were only a couple of small road signs to help find it, and no billboards. If you didn't know what you were looking for you could miss it. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has done an excellent job maintaining the house and they provide a first-class tour. 

The tour starts at the visitor's center. The center is very nicely done with a day care, cafe, and gift shop. Our group of about ten people started down the short access road used by the Kaufmann's.
The first view of the house is from slightly above. We could not see the waterfall from here. Wright's idea was that the Kaufmann's would live with the waterfall, not just look at it.
View of Fallingwater as you approach on the driveway.
Before entering the house we walked over to the "alternate view" which is of course the traditional view with the house perched over the waterfall. As I said, pictures do not do this scene justice.
Traditional view of Fallingwater.
Bear run was flowing well according to our tour guide. It can drop off to a trickle in the summer. Although you can't see it in this picture, there are now supports underneath the first terrace and between the rock ledges. There has been some settling because the concrete was improperly angled when the house was constructed. The usual problems that come with "pushing the envelope". There are plans to strengthen the first terrace, but it will be expensive.
[It turns out that FLLW did not specify sufficient steel reinforcement in the concrete terraces.]
Another shot from downriver.
I took a few pictures of the interior. Here are a couple of areas that are only included on the extended tour. This is the kitchen (on the first floor) which is used by the tour guides.
Inside shot of the kitchen.
This is the basement where the oil heater is located. As you can imagine, with all of the glass and rock, Fallingwater is not a very efficient home to heat. It is not air conditioned, although the Koufmann's were concerned enough with circulation problems to have modifications made when the guest house was built a couple of years after the main house. Although it is hard to see, the photo to the right is of a rock that "is one" with the basement. The hearthstone in the great room is much more attractive....
The basement boulder wall.
This picture was taken while standing on the second floor terrace looking over the first floor and the driveway bridge over the stream. It was a cloudy day, but the rain did not start until the tour was over (about 11:00 am).
Looking upriver over the driveway bridge.
I was standing on the third floor terrace looking back at Edgar Koufmann Jr.'s room. The guest house is in the background.
Looking over Edgar Koufmann Jr.'s room towards the guest house.
This shot was taken from the guest house looking back at the stepped walkway leading from the main house. The tour guide stated that they believe that the concrete roof over the walkway was created in one pour. There were no noticeable cracks in it even after 60 years.
Looking at the walkway roof from the guest house.
This is me in front of the carports (4) attached to the guest house. The administrative offices are located on the second floor. I can't imagine a better office!
Standing in front of the carport at the guest house.
This is back down on the driveway and entrance to the main house. At the end of the tour I felt that Frank Lloyd Wright was audacious and arrogant to try and improve on nature, but I certainly think he succeeded.
Standing in front of the entrance.
There was an interesting article about Fallingwater in the Philadelphia Inquirer on March 24, 2000. The state of Pennsylvania is going to chip in $3.5 million to repair the famous residence. There is a nice 15-minute video clip of the presentation of the gift at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy website.
The official Fallingwater site is hosted by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
For more in-depth information see the book Fallingwater by Edgar Kaufmann, Jr.

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