Frank Lloyd Wright in Pennsylvania
2009 marked the 50th anniversary of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s death, and of the opening of one of his signature buildings, the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The Guggenheim celebrated this milestone with a major exhibition on Wright’s life and career. Convenient to travelers on the western side of Pennsylvania (not far from the Turnpike) are two of his acclaimed works.
Fallingwater is considered a masterpiece by architects the world over for its design as well as siting. Situated 43 miles (69 km) southeast of Pittsburgh, the house was built in 1935 cantilevered over a waterfall on Bear Run in the Laurel Highlands of the Allegheny Mountains. The house was commissioned as a weekend home for the family of Liliane and Edgar Kaufmann, Sr., owner of a department store in Pittsburgh. Tickets must be purchased in advance, either online or by calling Visitor Services at 724-329-8501. (There is a $2 surcharge for phone reservations.)
Kentuck Knob, also known as the I.N. Hagan House, was one of Wright’s final finished projects, completed in 1956. It opened for tours in 1996. It is an ideal addition to a trip to his acclaimed Fallingwater, which is nearby. Tour reservations for both locations are handled by the same service.
Kentuck Knob is an example of what Wright called his Usonian style, for the United States of North America. The Usonian concept was to produce distinctive homes at moderate cost. Since 1986, the house has been owned by Lord Palumbo of England. Indeed, he was on a tour of Fallingwater when he learned that the only other Wright-designed house in Western Pennsylvania was in the vicinity, and that local ice cream magnate I.N. Hagan and his wife, both in declining health, had put it up for sale.
The site of Kentuck Knob is a hilltop that had a commanding panoramic view of the surrounding countryside at the time of its construction. However, trees on the hillside have been allowed to grow unchecked in the succeeding decades, partially obscuring the views. On the other hand, Lord and Lady Palumbo have amassed an interesting collection of art that is on display in the house and on the grounds. Also, the intimate nature of the house and its many clever design features more than make up for the impaired views. Note that the Palumbos still use this a residence for part of each year, during which time tours may not be available.
Also see www.fallingwater.org
Those motivated to see all the Frank Lloyd Wright structures in Pennsylvania may wish to visit the following two sites in the Philadelphia area:
Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, PA, north of Philadelphia, is a National Historic Landmark and the only synagogue designed by Wright. He accepted the commission for this project in 1953, shortly before taking the one for Kentuck Knob. Working closely with the congregation’s rabbi, Mortimer J. Cohen, Wright developed a soaring glass-enclosed space meant to evoke Mount Sinai. On November 15, 200