Fallingwater is widely regarded as one of the most influential works of 20th century architecture in America. The home’s history is almost as interesting as the architecture itself.
It all began when Edgar Kaufman Sr., Owner of the upscale Kaufmanns Department Stores in Pittsburg, has his son over for a visit at his La Tourelle estate. His son Edgar Kaufman Jr. was an avid fan of the world famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright for whom he put aside his career as a painter to work for. When Kaufman Jr. was visiting they invited Wright over for dinner. Sniffing out a potential client Wright whispered loudly to Kaufmann Jr. that his parents house was “not worthy of them”. The comment spurred Kaufmann Sr.’s desire for something “worthier”.
Thus began the creation of something magnificent the world would remember. Wright was getting on in his years and was desperate to prove his best days weren’t behind him. Kaufmann was a Pittsburgh aristocrat anxious for a “worthy” house. Together they were the perfect team.
The Kaufmann’s owned a beautiful, 5,100-acre piece of land outside of Pittsburg with a waterfall and cabins which they used as a vacation spot. The cabins were deteriorating so Kaufmann decided this is where his new home would be built. His vision was that the home would be built atop the falls to allow him a view of the cascades.
Wright drew up a daring cantilever design for the home. The home was designed to integrate with its magnificent surroundings naturally. Wrights deep love of Japanese architecture, which places an emphasis on harmony between man and nature, is seen strongly throughout the homes design and décor. The homes intent was to be one with nature; a feat Wright accomplished brilliantly having the waterfall flow from beneath the house. Some of the materials used to build the house include boulders and ledge rock from the building site. At the point where the main house meets the guest house a natural spring from the falls drips into the house. The bedrooms were purposely designed to be slightly cramped so guests would be encouraged to congregate in the beautiful outdoors.
The building of the house encountered many blockades but eventually it was completed. The Kaufmann’s used the home as a summer retreat from 1937-1963. In 1963 Kaufmann Jr. donated the home to the western Pennsylvania Conservancy as a museum. The intriguing home, rich with history and beauty currently hosts about 150,000 visitors each year.