Dover Book

Text Box with description of Book

For anyone even remotely interested in exploring architectural styles, this is a must-read. If you are not a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright, you will be after reading this book.
    When I first received it in the mail, I sat and looked at every single page. The photos I saw made my jaw drop. Shortly afterward, I read it through and became star-struck with the house and its whole fascinating history. It is truly a treasure to behold!
    It is difficult to imagine a time when Frank Lloyd Wright was not a person of fame and reputation, but the story of this landmark creation begins when he, like much of America, was struggling with the Great Depression, and lack of work. And worse yet, Wright's work had not gained the success and reputation for which he is remembered. In fact, he went against the grain of modern architecture, and was shunned by many. In 1934, he turned 67, and by chance captured the attention of a young man named Edgar Kaufmann, jr., who studied briefly with him at "Taliesin," Wright's home in Wisconsin where he also trained apprentices. Kaufmann had become fascinated with Wright's creations through an enthusiastic friend in New York, and when he returned home to Pittsburgh, he engaged his father's interest to use Wright for some planned civic projects. Wright never responded to the enquiry, but when Kauffman, jr. began to study with him, he realized this was no ordinary family.
    The elder Kaufmann was an extremely successful and wealthy businessman, even in the midst of the depression. Owner of Kaufmann's department store, and very prominent and influential in Pittsburgh, association with him offered Wright a doorway to revival of his career. It is through this alliance that Fallingwater, the house that was eventually voted most important building of the last hundred years by Architectural Record, was conceived and built.
    Along with projects for Pittsburgh, the Kaufmanns had a personal goal of a new weekend house on the property they owned in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, which included the stream known as Bear Run and 1914 acres. One aspect of Wright's architectural philosophy was that dwellings should be in harmony with nature, and this situation at Bear Run gave him the opportunity to create the epitome of incorporating nature into the building structure. The house literally sits over the stream, with cantilevers that jut out across the water. Steps were built leading from the interior of the house into the "plunge" so that the Kaufmanns could go for a swim when they pleased, an important aspect of their recreation at Bear Run. A huge boulder, rather than being moved, became part of the hearth of the large fireplace in the central living area, (see photo below). In addition to the poured concrete cantilevers, most of the rest of the structure was built with the stone painstakingly quarried right from the area.
    This book is the story, step-by-step, of the conception and building of this incredible work of art, not only from the physical aspects of construction, but from the human aspects. Though Wright and the Kaufmanns developed something much deeper than a business relationship. . .

Mrs. Kaufmann wrote once to Wright: "Living in a house built by you has been my one education—and for that and for the privilege of knowing you, I will always be grateful."

Wright had written to Kaufmann: "I conceived a love for you quite beyond the ordinary relationship of client and Architect. That love gave you Fallingwater."

. . . there were many moments of intensity and flared tempers between these two strong-willed men. Wright constantly wrote Kaufmann asking for more money. And he wanted control of every detail of the building. There were problems with the work crews and issues with the structure itself. And there were moments of humor, too, such as when the wife of the stonemason foreman had him arrested, and would not allow him to return to "build the nudist colony at Bare Run."
After spending their lives enjoying this home, both the elder Kaufmanns died—Liliane in 1952 at Bear Run, then Edgar in 1955 in Palm Spring, shortly after a visit from Wright, who died in1959 at nearly 92 years of age. In October 1963, Edgar jr. gave the house and 1543 acres to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy of Pittsburgh as a memorial to his parents. It is now a public landmark.

For me, this book also had a personal appeal. Living in Ohio, (and not that far from Pittsburgh), I am in one of the five states where Kaufmann department stores were located. I found it fascinating to learn about the family that built this very successful business. But even more exciting is that this magnificent monument to Wright's genius is located a short day trip from my house, so going to visit it is definitely on my to-do list.

For more information on Fallingwater, or to enquire about visiting it, please go to:


This is a line of hidden text. This is a line of hidden text. This is a line of hidden text.

A huge boulder is incorporated into the hearth.

This is a line of hidden text. This is a line of hidden text. This is a line of hidden text.

Interior living area


All material on this site copyright © 2013 by Laughing Crow.
This site designed and written by Laughing Crow.