The #1 tourist spot in the Laurel Highlands is Frank Lloyd Wright‘s Fallingwater. Most of the people who visit Fort Necessity are visiting us because they are in the area to visit Fallingwater. This lovely house built into the side of a hill was designed for the Kaufmann family who owned Kaufmann’s Department Stores. It was supposed to be a summer cabin retreat next to a waterfall. But it turned into a multi-story house cantilevered over a waterfall.
We went to see Fallingwater with my brother, Steve, his wife Kathy, and their daughter Grace. You have to reserve tickets ahead of time and the tours can be full on the weekends. Lots of tour buses also stop at Fallingwater. You buy tickets for a time period – a half hour block – and then go in groups of 15 within your time period. Tours enter the house every five minutes. The house is not handicapped accessible. There are 100 steps inside the house and you have to climb up a hill to get back to the parking lot. You are not allowed to take pictures while you are on the tour or inside the house.
We toured Fallingwater first thing in the morning. There are several different tours you can take and we opted for the basic one hour house tour. Those tours cost $30 per person with a $2 processing fee per ticket. Other tours cost more but are more in-depth. We got to see all the rooms of the house with our guide explaining the architecture and openness in the house. The rock of the hillside is incorporated into the building itself, and you can see it floors and walls. The house is made out of steel, glass, stone, and concrete.
Fallingwater’s most notable feature is the way it hangs out over the Bear Run and its waterfall. You can hear the running water from anywhere in the house. Using passive air flow methods through the house, the coolness of the stream helps to cool the house, which is not air-conditioned. There is as much outdoor terrace space as indoor space. Everything inside the house encourages you to go outside.
My favorite part of our visit was going to the art gallery, where they had an exhibition of the textiles that had just been redone inside the house. The exhibit explained the process of developing and designing the textiles. There was a weaving chart showing the design for one piece of cloth. I mention that because I just learned to read weaving charts!
Our tour was great and it was wonderful to see the house with my brother and his family. But touring a house will never be the first draw of an area for me. I would rather see the waterfalls, hike the trails, and ride my bike on the wonderful paths in the area.