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starrs Apr 15th, 2013 05:36 AM

A visit to Fallingwater and places nearby
I've wanted to go to Fallingwater for years and mention it fairly often. A Fodorite was visiting in my area last fall and it was mentioned at dinner. P said "Let's go in spring". And so we did.

starrs Apr 15th, 2013 05:48 AM

Fallingwater is Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic home built for the Kaufmanns of the department stores in Pittsburg. They had a rustic getaway not too far away. Their son was interested in architecture and interned at Taliesin West with FLW. The Kaufmanns commissioned FLW to build a new home at their swimming hole in Bear Run. The relationship of the house to the land, creek (and boulders) is organic. I join the ranks of those surprised that the house does not have a view of the waterfalls, but instead was built over the waterfalls.

Photos are not allowed inside the house but I'll try to link to photos taken outside. The place is absolutely amazing. What a creative mind. A house so modern, yet built in the 30s. A house that is so evocative of the surroundings, yet so comfortable. Everything about the experience, the walk to the house through the woods, crossing the bridge into another world, the boulders that anchor the house, the cantilevered terrace that mirror the boulders in the creek, the flagstone floors, varied ceiling heights and original FLW built furniture. For me it was a "rock star" experience. I will be going back soon (I hope).

starrs Apr 15th, 2013 05:53 AM

We were visiting on a spring day mid-week and weren't too concerned about making reservations. But I checked the night before and several time slots were already sold out. I recommend making reservations to be sure you have access. Tours depart every 30 minutes and groups are staggered so there are other groups in the house at the same time. We took the basic tour ($22 with fees) but I may take the in-depth tour on return. After the tour you are free to explore the grounds and return to the terraces.

Lunch - we ate at the Fallingwater Cafe. The food was very good and reasonably priced and the location cannot be beat. Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. designed the cafe/gift shop/restroom pavillions and they are perfectly designed for the setting. We ate outdoors amidst the rhododendron, firs and cool mountain air. Delightful. I had the asparagus/goat cheese baguette sandwich and P had the soup of the day. Very good.

starrs Apr 15th, 2013 06:07 AM

The afternoon before we visited nearby Kentuck Knob -

This is much smaller home designed by FLW and reflects his Usonian approach, homes affordable for common people. I enjoyed touring the house very much but was glad we saw the two houses on different days. It helped me to soak in the details of both homes. The tour guide really helped to point out the details that were so important to FLW - and changes made by the owners after FLW was finished. ;)

I found the kitchen particularly interesting, especially the unique range with four flip down units. The entire unit could be moved outdoors as needed. I loved the stainless countertops, the space age looking juicer and an original Michael Graves tea kettle at the ready.

Strangely enough, visiting the house felt a lot like coming home. My dad had a house built in the late 60s and the slate flooring in the foyer and the built-ins throughout made me wonder how much he was influenced (if at all) by FLW. I need to have a conversation with him about it.

There's a fabulous view from the knob and wonderful sculptures on the grounds. You have the option of walking down through the sculpture garden or taking the shuttle van back down to the visitor center.

We were surprised that both homes close at 4 so plan accordingly if you go for a visit.

starrs Apr 15th, 2013 06:15 AM

A great place to stay = Holiday Inn Express Donegal

I chose this based on TripAdvisor reviews and what a great choice! This is one of the nicest (and most unexpected) hotels I've ever stayed in.

The area in which the FLW homes are located is called the Laurel Highlands and it is part of the Appalachian mountain chain. The area looks a lot like north Georgia, eastern TN, western NC, etc.

This hotel looks like a lodge from a western state. If interested, take a look at their photos -

The hotel is new (less than 2 years old). The staff is very nice. The decor is beautiful and mountain-y. The room decor is more Craftsman in style. There's a beautiful indoor pool with whirlpool. There's a nice (if small) fitness room. The free breakfast is varied with the usual cereals, juices, etc. but hot items including eggs, sausage, ham, sausage gravy for biscuits and a pancake making machine that had the kids entranced. All of the above at a very reasonable rate. I asked about the owners of the franchise because I'd love to stay in another one if their hotels (the information was not given). Everything about this hotel was positive.

I give this hotel 5 stars. :-)

starrs Apr 15th, 2013 06:22 AM

The other overnight option would have been the Nemacolin resort -

A former boss told me for years that I would love this place and needed to visit - mainly for the spa. But spa visits weren't in the cards for this trip and the rates were really high so we choose elsewhere.

We did stop by for lunch and enjoyed our meal in the Tavern. The resort is privately owned and is quite unique. We were very impressed at the entrance to the 5 star, 5 diamond hotel. We were a bit puzzled as we walked the LONG route through the different sections of the hotel (and different designs/decor). A staff member helped us sort out the route. It's a very nice place to stay with lots of options (spa, golf, zip-lining, etc). I may return to enjoy the spa but will stay at the HIX Donegal again.

starrs Apr 15th, 2013 06:27 AM

Dinner options in Donegal -

The HIX has their act together and offers a several page list of restaurants in the area.

If you are looking for fine dining, the place to go seems to be the Out of the Fire cafe. The reviews are great. The prices are reflect the fine dining. It is BYOB.

We weren't very hungry after our lunch at Nemacolin so ate at a family style restaurant about 2 miles down the road - Brady's.
Brady's isn't fancy but doesn't bill itself as a fancy place. They have a large salad bar and a very traditional menu. The food was good. It was an easy drive down the road and we enjoyed watching the ducks and geese on the pond outside.

I'm sure the other places on the list of restaurants would be fine as well.

starrs Apr 15th, 2013 06:32 AM

We were driving back to DC and P suggested a visit to the Flight 93 memorial outside Shanksville, PA. I am so glad she did. What a wonderfully designed memorial to the lives lost - and the everyday heroes in that plane.

starrs Apr 15th, 2013 06:35 AM

The most unusual stop of the day was at the ribbon outlet in Hagerstown -

<i>But it is Offray’s retail operation that boasts the biggest benefits for local consumers. Tucked off Willow Circle across from the factory, the store sells deep-discounted closeout, overrun and discontinued ribbon products. About 300 customers each week comb through large bins filled with ribbons and bows, bolts of cloth and ready-made items for craft projects. The store’s four well-trained employees provide friendly instruction and how-to advice. “We help people with their craft projects and even make bows for their weddings,” says Store Manager Michelle Staley. “We give lots of personal service in this store.”

starrs Apr 15th, 2013 06:40 AM

The last stop of the day was at the outlet malls -

We stopped by a couple of stores to check out purses but neither of us were in the shopping mood. Harry & David was across from the Coach store so I grabbed some moose munch for the ride home (and finished it on the long ride home). It's a very nice collection of premium outlet stores if you are in the mood for shopping. As it turns out, we weren't - so we headed back "home".

starrs Apr 15th, 2013 06:43 AM

lincasnova asked about drive times on Facebook and it was about 3 hours each way from Washington DC to the Mill Run/ Donegal PA area where Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob are located. It's a fairly easy drive and we opted to go secondary roads a lot of the time to enjoy the scenery.

nanabee Apr 15th, 2013 06:44 AM

starrs, I agree the house is amazing in that how modern and liveable it is today after being built in the 1930's. We visited the Robie House in Chicago (at the U of Chicago) a few years ago. It was being refurbished but was also architectually intereting.

dwooddon Apr 15th, 2013 07:14 AM

Starrs - you may be interested to know that during your visit, you were walking on my ancestral lands. When Kaufmann was accumulating the land, he bought a small farm owned by my paternal grandfather as part of the estate. We have a photo of my great GF standing in front of the water fall before the house was built.I also have a copy of the deed in my files where my GF sold the property to Kaufmann.

cd Apr 15th, 2013 07:19 AM

You write good reports starrs! We enjoyed our visit to Fallingwater a couple of years ago. At that time I noticed a lot of maintenance that needed done especially to the outside, I hope it's being taken care of.

starrs Apr 15th, 2013 07:30 AM

nanabee, so very liveable!

There's a visitor's center built in the 4 bay carport at Fallingwater and the furniture was designed by Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. It is so FLW-ish I wondered...but realized he would not have built banquettes in a carport! It was nice to sit down after the tour but also to see how comfortable the banquettes that I had seen in FLW's homes (Taliesin West, Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob) really are/were!

I am so glad that Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. turned over Fallingwater to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy so it is available for all to see. He and his partner visited it afterwards and it remained a home he loved...but gave us a chance to love it too.

starrs Apr 15th, 2013 07:32 AM

dwooden, that's so very cool. Unimaginably cool. You should have the deed and the photo framed in a shadow box.

Your grandfather farmed the land? I bet his best crop was the same as my great-grandfather's crop at the base of Lookout Mtn, TN = the spring rock crop! I used to think he was making a joke until I learned about rock heaving in geology classes. ;)

Have you been back to visit?

starrs Apr 15th, 2013 07:36 AM

Thank you, cd! I appreciate the kind comment. I get slammed on this board for writing too much so I tried to keep the comments to a miniumum...but there's so much to say about FW!

Yes, they had a major restoration project on the terraces to build new supports and to stop the drooping (not the right technical term) of the cantilevered terraces. It was interesting to hear the details of the effort, including numbering all of the flagstones in the living room and taking lots of photos to help them return to the interior to exactly the way it was before.

starrs Apr 15th, 2013 07:37 AM

And they use Johnson's Wax on the flagstone floor to keep it clean and shiny - and to reflect the imagery of the creek.

PeaceOut Apr 15th, 2013 09:06 AM

Thanks for the trip report, starrs. I love Frank Lloyd Wright. His prairie home design is mimicked in a home across the street from us, built in the 50s. I hope it never gets 'topped'. Would love to see Fallingwater. What a genius he was.

jubilada Apr 15th, 2013 11:49 AM

I love fallingwater and haven't seen it in awhile. Thanks for the reminder.

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