About a three-hour drive from Washington, DC in the rural foothills of Pennsylvania is American architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater. It was recently voted the single most important building in the United States by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). It makes for a great field trip if you’re in the area; so with snacks for the road, we drove up to Bear Run for a tour.
Fallingwater was designed in 1935 as a summer home for the Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh. The family had a successful department store in the city, and this was to be their wooded weekend retreat.
The design of the house is a series of reinforced concrete terraces cantilevered out over the Bear Run river.
From every room inside the house, you can hear the crashing waterfalls and feel as if you are part of the natural world around you. It’s the house that defined the philosophy of ‘organic architecture’ – a sense of harmony between nature and the built environment. The central living space inside Fallingwater is open and light, with the use of natural materials, including waxed river stones for the floor.
Every room was filled with incredibly thoughtful architectural details. But sadly the organisation that runs the property, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, is letting the site fall into a state of appalling disrepair. I saw cracks in the plaster, mold growing on the terraces, and paper kitchen towel stuffed in cracks in the rock walls to plug water leaks. The conservancy is under-funded, inexperienced, and most probably mismanaged. It’s such a shame, because I imagine this property in the hands of the National Parks or Smithsonian where it could really be taken care of properly and wow its visitors even more! I hope this national treasure is around to inspire future generations and the next chapter of architecture students for years to come.
After leaving Fallingwater, we stopped for lunch at the historic Casselman Inn in Grantsville, Maryland. Operated by Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish owners, the restaurant is known for its selection of homemade breads, cakes, and pies. It’s also where I fell off the gluten-free wagon!
I resisted the yeasty sweetness of the warm, freshly baked bread. And I refused to give in to even a bite of Eddie’s honey-dipped fried chicken.
My fall from grace came at the hands of this monster iced maple cinnamon roll.
I have never tasted such sweet, soft, maple-y perfection. And, for my figure’s sake, I hope I don’t for a long time to come! (It was so worth it though).
Just around the corner from the inn is Castleman’s River Bridge, a historic national landmark. Its 80-foot span was the largest stone arch in America at the time it was built in 1813.
I love driving though America and discovering little out-of-the-way spots with their own tiny history. Surely, there will be many more to come!