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  • Fallingwater

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on June 27th, 2012 (All posts by )

    I recently visited the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright house “Fallingwater“. The home is located in rural Pennsylvania and I highly recommend a visit. This “iconic” view was taken from a path after the tour; in most of the photos I’ve seen of Fallingwater on the web this must be the spot for these photos. This spot allows you to capture the two waterfalls and the house which are not visible from other angles.

    The visit begins when you reach a reception area that is very well designed. You can sign up for a visit at a designated time and when you arrive you receive a number and then your group is called. The entire process seemed to run smoothly.

    When your number is called you begin the five minute walk through a forest towards the house. Above is the view as we approached Fallingwater.

    Our guide met us at the road next to the house. This was the last place you could take photos until you exit the house; they said this was because cameras dropped dinged up the interior but likely it was also done to speed up the tour. Our guide seemed very knowledgable and helpful.

    This is a view of Fallingwater from the other side. While touring Fallingwater I was struck at how modern the house was considering that it was built in the 1930s, over 70 years ago.

    There are many architectural details that are interesting. In this photo you can see how the windows on both sides meet and when you open the windows you can’t see the frames at all and it gives an “open” effect in the office. Throughout the tour the guide pointed out amazing details such as this.

    If you’d like your own model of Fallingwater it can be had for only $61,000 in the gift shop. Note that Fallingwater cost about $150,000 to build in the late 1930’s… but of course that would translate into many millions today.

    Cross posted at LITGM


    15 Responses to “Fallingwater”

    1. Jonathan Says:

      Beautiful building. The WSJ published an article about it a few years ago. Apparently it requires a great deal of maintenance to control water leaks.

    2. Michael Kennedy Says:

      I suspect that maintenance is why it is a tour site rather than a home. It certainly is a beautiful sight, and site. There are several small Frank Lloyd Wright houses in South Shore, in Chicago, the neighborhood in which I grew up. Some friends lived in one; another is a block from St Philip Neri, the church and school I attended. We used to have snowball fights in the front yard of the one by the church. They were built early in his career.

    3. Gene Says:

      I visited a few years ago in the winter. A light snow the previous day had left about 3 inches on everything, which only added to the beauty of the scene. And the cold weather kept the crowds down, to the point that my group was only about 7 people. Also, what’s with the photography ban? I shot photos throughout and no one told me to stop.

    4. Mrs. Davis Says:

      For those who might be interested in visiting Falling Waters, also plan to see Kentuck Knob about 10 miles away. Another FLW house in a certain way less spectacular but more livable.

    5. chuck Says:

      How was the house heated? Coal and coal cellar, natural gas, oil? I’d be curious if there was a room in the bottom devoted to a hot water heater and furnace. What were the plumbing, water, septic system, and bathroom facilities like?

    6. Jonathan Says:

      Robie House in Hyde Park is a Wright design. There are others in the area including at least one home on Sheridan Road around Highland Park, and IIRC the SC Johnson headquarters in Racine.

      The characteristic flat roof doesn’t seem optimal for rain and snow.

    7. Javahead Says:

      I’ve been a fan of Wright’s architecture for years. But from all I’ve seen and read I don’t think that I’d care to actually *live* in one of his houses. It seems that even his most ardent supporters admit that he was very much a “big picture” designer in some ways (he could be very much a detail man on visible details and appearance) – he loved trying out new materials, and the overall impact he was trying to achieve.

      But little things like making it easily built, ensuring that the roof didn’t leak, that materials chosen wouldn’t degrade (or could be easily replaced if they did), interior design flexibility . . . really weren’t high priorities. Many of his early Prairie House designs had built-in furniture and fixtures to ensure that the rooms reflected his vision. Which was fine if the homeowner agreed. Not so fine if they wanted to move things around for a party, or wanted/needed to update the look. Plus, FLW was shorter than average – and the built-in furnishings were built to match him. Imagine, say, Julia Child trying to live in a FLW house ;-).

      I’d love to visit Fallingwater, and other iconic FLW designs. And, as I have the time and money I’d love to adapt some of his ideas to my own living space. But unless you have the money to maintain/restore as needed, a real love of his architecture and the home’s history, and a willingness to adapt yourself to Wright’s vision of how you should live, I wouldn’t recommend buying a FLW house to actually live in.

      On a tangent – I live in San Jose. If you can find a photo of the San Jose Water District office at 5700 Almaden Expressway online, please take a look. I did a double take when I first saw it – to me, it looks exactly like a FLW Prairie House designed for someone about 15 feet tall – the entrance, the roof line, the windows all appear to be scaled up versions of a Wright original.

    8. Sgt. Mom Says:

      I like the looks of Fallingwater, especially from that one iconic spot … but I think Michael K. is right – the upkeep and maintenace would be horrific, and I just can’t see the place being comfortably liveable. IIRC reading the same article Johnathon did, and the place leaks like a sieve, and the floors are everything but level.
      Now, if I could do a classic American designer house for my very own, I’d choose a Greene & Greene designed house. There were a great many of them around in Pasadena, where my mother grew up and my grandparents lived from the 1920s, on to the 1970a. Early 20th century, craftsman-style, with some interesting Japanese and Art Nouveau touches. Link here to one of their masterworks – the Gamble House, for which they designed a lot of the furniture, too.

    9. Bob Koss Says:

      It’s certainly a unique looking place. Being in a wooded area with a brook, I wonder what the insect population is like.

    10. Robert Schwartz Says:

      The mother lode of Wright houses (22 of them) in the “Prairie” style is in Oak Park due west of the loop. Wright’s studio from his Chicago years (1893 –1909) is there and is a museum on Chicago Ave. between Oak Park Ave and Harlem Ave.

      There is a Metra stop not far from the museum on the UP-W line. The Museum runs bicycle tours of the neighborhood during the summer:

      Wright left Oak Park in 1909 after his scandalous affair with a client. Robie House was designed just before he left. Falling Water was from the 1930s when Wright was in his 60s and was a celebrity starchitect.

      If I had owned the land, and had Kaufmann’s money (they owned the eponymous department stores in Pittsburgh) I would have built the house opposite the falls so I could look at them, and not have to worry about water in the house. Water wrecks houses, more slowly than fire, but more surely.

    11. Anonymous Says:

      Our guide met us at the road next to the house. This was the last place you could take photos until you exit the house; they said this was because cameras dropped dinged up the interior but likely it was also done to speed up the tour.

      A benign reason, but I believe the actual reason copyright protection, which of course the FLW foundation diligently defends.

      In the 1980’s, a dear, late friend, an Arizonan, and a FLW aficionado and made a copy of a FLW coffee table and proposed to the Foundation to do business in joint venture with it as COPYWRIGHT, but licensing negotiations. The Foundation even objected to his using of the trade name COPYWRIGHT

    12. Michael Kennedy Says:

      ” I’d choose a Greene & Greene designed house. ”

      The Gamble House in Pasadena is the best example of their work. It was donated to USC and is open for tours. The Greene’s did everything including weaving the carpet in the living room. One thread color was unsatisfactory and they removed it and rewove the rug. There are a number of G&G homes in Pasadena.

      I owned a house from their studio in South Pasadena that I wish I still owned. It was right after I began in practice in LA and that didn’t work out so I moved to Orange County. I bought the house for $68,000 in 1971 and sold it for $78,000 in 1972, never having lived in it. It was worth about $2 million last I checked.

    13. John Says:

      But little things like making it easily built, ensuring that the roof didn’t leak, that materials chosen wouldn’t degrade (or could be easily replaced if they did), interior design flexibility . . . really weren’t high priorities.

      Those little things are actually the big things.

    14. Sgt. Mom Says:

      MK., you owned a Greene & Greene house … and you sold it? *sob*
      Oh, I do understand why you did. It probably was a good economic decision at the time …
      but Greene & Greene? *another sob* You never lived in it? *yet another sob*
      Oh, well – if you still owned it, I would have come to Pasadena on my next family trip and drooled all over it. Saved yourself some wear and tear on the floors, anyway.

    15. Rachael Says:

      We’re hoping to visit Falling Water next month but I’ve been admiring the house for years. How long does the tour last?