Mill Run, Pennsylvania
It was the sight of the house built over a waterfall that first entranced me. Although I had seen countless pictures of it, and heard accolades from friends who had visited, nothing would prepare me for the sight of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s greatest masterpieces-Fallingwater.
If a home like Fallingwater were to be built today, it wouldn’t be the architectural marvel it was then. Constructed during the years of the Great Depression for a whopping cost of $155,000 (it would come out to more than $2 million in dollars). But in the time and backdrop Fallingwater was constructed, everything was new and unheard of.
Fallingwater had been intended to serve as a nature retreat for Edgar Kaufmann Sr., millionarire businessman and president of Kaufman’s Department Store, and his wife and son. (Kaufmann’s would eventually becomes Macy’s Department Store in the 21st century). On the seventy mile drive to Mill Run from Pittsburgh, I saw nothing but glorious Laurel Highlands scenery, in which I’m sure looks even doubly majestic during fall foilage.
Wright, who was very much influenced by Japanese architecture, reflects this in his design of the house. It’s apparent that it is meant to be a blissful union between harmony and nature, reminiscent of a temple in Japan. The area surrounding the house is nothing but trees and bucolic openness. I had read somewhere that Bear Run (the name of the waterfall the house was built over) and the sound of its water permeates the house, especially during spring when snow is melting. To me nothing is more soothing than the sound of flowing water especially when it’s right beneath you.
Every detail of the house painstakingly incorporates the outside with the inside. The fireplace hearth in the living room integrates boulders that had been found on the land and upon which the house was built. The stone floors are waxed, the hearth a plain surface, thus giving the impression of dry rocks protruding from a stream. The staircase that leads to the stream from the living room is accessible via movable horizontal glass panes. I don’t know of many people who can boast such an impressive and unusual of feature in their home.
As the tour progressed throughout the house, I found out that the bedrooms were designed purposely small with low ceilings, as a means of encouraging people outward towards the open social area, decks, and outdoors. The fact that Wright even designed the dining room table and chairs made infinite sense after reading T.C. Boyle’s novel The Women, a fictional account of Wright as told through the points of view of his four wives, one which displays the very controlling side of him. Although it was not Wright’s house in the ownership sense, it was his in every detail of design, small and large. The Kaufman name is decidedly big in the Pittsburgh area, but outside of it, Fallingwater will always be equated with the man who designed this Pennsylvania Wonder of the World, Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright.