Day 39 & 40, Thursday & Friday, August 23 & 24, 2018
Rockwood & Mill Run, Pennsylvania
Thursday was a rest day. It had been a little while since I had a day just spent at the campground, but there was another reason too. My former employer was being sued, and I was being deposed as a witness in the lawsuit. I have to admit that it was an odd experience, laying in my car bed with my laptop at the ready (part of the deposition was answering questions about exhibit documents), answering the attorney’s questions under oath. It is not an unheard of experience in my career, but it was the first time I’ve ever been deposed while hanging out in a campground in Pennsylvania! I’m just glad I didn’t have to fly home for the deposition!
The rest of the day, I relaxed, took some walks, and wrote. The Hickory Hollow Campground in Rockwood was mostly set up for RVs, and I had the tent area all to myself! Unfortunately, the Laurel Highlands area of Pennsylvania was quite cool during my visit, so I didn’t have an opportunity to check out the pool at the campground.
Friday I was back at it, and ready to see a highlight of the trip. The architect Frank Lloyd Wright is fascinating to me. I have enjoyed visiting the homes he has designed and seeing how he incorporates nature (and styles representing nature) into his designs. So it is no surprise that I was excited to visit Fallingwater!
Fallingwater is considered to be Wright’s masterpiece. It was built in 1935 for Liliane Kaufmann and her husband Edgar, owners of the Pittsburgh based Kaufmann’s department store. The Pittsburgh wealthy had long been building homes in the Laurel Highlands area outside of Pittsburgh, and the Kaufmanns were no exception. What is unique, however, is the home. Fallingwater is built directly over a waterfall on Bear Run, and incorporates the waterfall and the stream into the design of the home.
It is incredible! There are stairs from the living room of the home to access the water below. There are 4 bedrooms and six bathrooms in the home. Fallingwater has several sections that are cantilevered, meaning they are only supported at one end, including the living room and the outdoor balconies. The home is constructed with concrete and locally quarried Pottsville sandstone, and a series of cantilevered “trays” make up the home over the waterfall. Wright called his style organic architecture, where stone floors continue inside and out, corner windows blur the lines between interior and exterior, and glass is used in abundance to bring the outdoors in.
Wright wanted the design to be in harmony with nature, and he did not want to have unnecessary braces or structural support. Wright also insisted that he design the furniture on most of the homes he designed, and Fallingwater contains the original furniture that came with the home. The Kaufmanns were permitted to display some of their own knick-knacks and artwork; Wright liked to control every detail of the homes he designed.
Unfortunately, there were some disagreements between Wright and the contractors, and the owners of the house. The Kaufmanns were concerned about whether Wright had enough experience working with concrete and structural engineers recommended much more structural bracing than Wright wanted; the owners had the additional bracing added in spite of Wright’s protests. Even with this additional structural support added, a study done several years ago showed that the cantilevers were still in danger, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has had to add additional support in recent years.
The tour was very interesting and gave a lot of information about the Kaufmanns and their prized home. Unfortunately, you can’t take photos inside, and there were far too many people on the tour to sneak any, but I did wander the grounds and I made sure to get the iconic shot of the home and the Bear Run waterfall. Fallingwater is certainly worth a visit if you have the chance!