I’ve recently begun a hobby in photography that has, at times, guided my travels. Often I choose a location based on the photographic possibilities there. My recent trip to Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania was just that. I had seen, like everyone else, the famous stock photo of the Frank Lloyd Wright house built into the side of a mountain with the forest in the background and a stream running through it. I was wondering if I could capture a shot like that or perhaps do even better.
The Fallingwater house was built by the architectural genius, Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1935 for Edgar Kaufmann, who owned the Kaufmann’s department stores. The unique features of this house are that it is built on cantilever beams inserted into the mountain and that it hangs completely over the waterfalls below. Since this a tourist site, there is a visitor center where you can shop, eat, and check-in for your tour. They even have a one-room museum featuring local artists. The cool part about the visitor center is that it is mostly an open-air gazebo, very much in the spirit of the way that Wright wanted to incorporate nature into the site. There are a couple of tour options and we chose to do the full interior tour to see the Kaufman’s living area.
The tour itself was great as our guide had been working there for over 20 years and knew just about everything. He said he had met the Kaufmann son who entrusted it to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in the 1960’s. The house is decorated in 70’s style with a very nostalgic kitchen. The “new” technology, like the built-in refrigerator in the kitchen, was just below the breadbox. Breadbox?
Throughout the house, there are several paintings by Diego Rivera, Pablo Picasso, and sketches by John Audubon. The living room fireplace is a focal feature with its well-known swinging wine ball for mulling. The G-rated version says it was used for making soup but there are a fair amount of liquor bottles around and I’d bet there were a few parties there. The interior tour included the guest quarters at the third-floor level and the carport with the guest area which are interesting as well.
After the tour, we followed the loop through the forest to take pictures of the exterior and I had my opportunity to beat the stock photo. Most visitors are there pretty much only to see and tour the house so the woods around the home are relatively crowd-free. The loop goes around the house and offers a few places to stop and get some different shots. You really can’t take the famous picture any other way as there is a clearing and this view through the forest of the house only at this angle.
It was very peaceful there even with the mass of visitors around. It is possible to be somewhat alone in the forest within sight of the house. I left the house pretty satisfied as I came to get a picture and learn about this unique structure in the heart of Pennsylvania and was successful at both.
David Elwood Flickr site
Windows Live Fallingwater photos