We visited Fallingwater with Steve, Kathy, and Grace. Fallingwater is the most famous Frank Lloyd Wright house in the area and probably the #1 tourist attraction in the Laurel Highlands. Then we went to Kentuck Knob, another Frank Lloyd Wright House, with Sandy and Eric. But there are two other Frank Lloyd Wright houses in the Laurel Highlands. They are not as well known nor as well visited. We waited for Mom and Dad before we visited Polymath Park.
Polymath Park is a collection of four houses built by Frank Lloyd Wright or an apprentice. To tour it you have to buy tickets from the Fallingwater website. The Balter and Blum families from Pittsburgh dreamed of a summer resort filled with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian houses. They contacted Wright about the project and he was ready to do it. Wright, however, died after the land was purchased but before the houses could be built. His apprentice, Peter Berndston, took over the project and built houses for the Balter and Blum families in the Frank Lloyd Wright style.
Unfortunately, the resort idea never took hold. The Balter and Blum families lived in their houses for many years during the summer. Thomas and Heather Papinchak bought the properties in 2003, including a house called “Treetops” that they lived in for a while. Mr. Papinchak worked to maintain and preserve the Balter and Blum houses and started renting them out for overnight stays. In 2006 Mr. Papinchak obtained another Wright house, called the Duncan House. The house, originally built in Lisle, Illinois, was moved to the Pennsylvania property and rebuilt.
Ten years later, in 2016, the Papinchaks were given another Wright house originally built in Cloquet, Minnesota for the Lindholm Family. They moved the house to their property and just opened it for tours this summer. This house is called Mantyla and is much bigger than the other three houses.
Our Polymath Park tour consisted of the Duncan, Balter, and Mantyla houses. We had an enthusiastic tour guide who drove us from house to house in a shuttle bus. Unfortunately, we only had an hour to see all three houses, which was not enough time for our group of 15. It felt very rushed and I would have liked to take a little more time. I think a half hour per house would be better. But there was only one shuttle bus and he had to get back for the next tour. The pictures of the interiors are from a magazine article about the home because you are not allowed to take pictures inside on the tours.
Seeing the houses was very interesting. They were a variety of designs, but had many of the familiar Frank Lloyd Wright features: stone, red wood and concrete, and compression with openness in the outer rooms. You can rent the houses for an overnight stay and eat at the Treetops restaurant. If you are a Frank Lloyd Wright fan, you want to visit Polymath Park before you leave the Laurel Highlands.