Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Falling Water Worth a Visit

I've been traveling some really Scenic Byways on the east coast over the past few days - in my old stomping ground of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. This past weekend was my one year wedding anniversary, and it was close to my husband's birthday, so I wanted to do something fun to celebrate and to surprise him. So, with a trip to the east coast planned, I decided to surprise him with a tour of Falling Water in western Pennsylvania, south of Pittsburgh.

Falling Water is probably the most well-known house designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. I would venture that the average person probably doesn't know much about architects and architecture, but they've probably heard of Wright and seen photographs of Falling Water. Many consider it an iconic home design in architecture and one of Wright's best pieces of work, if not the best.

The house was built in the 1930s (1936-39) for the Kaufmann family as a weekend getaway from their main residence in Pittsburgh. Interesting fact that I did not recall from earlier reading about the place...the Kaufmanns were famous for Pittsburgh's Kaufmann's Department Store, which would later become Macy's.

The Kaufmann family lived and worked in Pittsburgh, which was still at that time a very dirty city from all of the industrial activity (coal, steel, manufacturing, etc.), and would escape to the nearby mountains on the weekends for relaxation and clean air.

The house sits over a water fall on Bear Run in the Laurel Highlands of the Allegheny Mountains. It is a lush, gorgeous setting - a sampling of the forests and streams you will find all over western and central Pennsylvania. It was a very unique and modern house for its time - sometimes labeled as 'organic architecture' as it blended into its setting, incorporating boulders and water flow on the site - with all the rooms opening up to the nature that surrounds it. It really is beautiful - inside and out - and worth a visit.

I recommend you visit the website and check out the different tour options - there are many to suit different interests, and tickets range from $8.00-$1,000. Yes, I said $1,000. That is for the Focus Tour. I selected the Brunch Tour - one that runs for two hours, is more in-depth, promises a smaller group than the standard tours and allows you to see more rooms of the house, and that ends with a lovely private brunch on one of the home's terraces.  A little pricey (nowhere close to the $1,000 Focus Tour...closer to $100/person), but totally worth it, especially for a special occasion like an anniversary.

If you are interested in the Brunch Tour (Saturdays and Sundays only), you will have to wait until next year as we were on the last one of these types of tours for the year. Also worth noting - October might be one of the most beautiful times of the year to see the house, with the foliage in full Fall color explosion, however it is also the busiest time of the year for the place, getting up to 1,000 visitors per day at that time. I recommend going early in the morning, doing one of the special tours that include less people, and going at a less touristy time in the year so you can appreciate the full beauty of the place without the crazy crowds. We ended up with a beautiful day with a hint of color change starting up in the surrounding woods, temperatures starting to cool, and light breezes that created a magical falling leaf effect to complement the falling water...

Get on your Byway and check it out: Falling Water.

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