Western Pennsylvania Tour➤
My friend Patty and I hit the road in October of 2022 for a tour of the Western Pennsylvania NPS units. The National Parks of Western Pennsylvania (WEPA) includes the following five parks: Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site, Johnstown Flood National Memorial, Flight 93 National Memorial, Fort Necessity National Battlefield and Friendship Hill National Historic Site.
We decided to start the circuit at the southernmost unit, Friendship Hill, and work our way North. Along the way we also toured a Frank Lloyd Wright UNESCO Heritage Site and Ohiopyle State Park.
We left New Jersey early in the morning and drove south and then west. The Allegheny Mountains rose up in our path and Patty recorded our passage through the historic tunnels. After stopping for a quick lunch at a Cracker Barrel, we pulled into Fallingwater’s unique indoor/outdoor visitor center in mid-afternoon. We perused the gift shop as we waited for our docent-led tour to begin.
The architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed Fallingwater in 1935 in the Laurel Highlands, about 70 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Liliane and Edgar J. Kaufmann, the owner of Pittsburgh’s Kaufmann’s Department Store, hired Wright to build the home as a weekend retreat.
The Kaufmann family loved nature and the outdoors. Wright’s design organically integrated Fallingwater with its surroundings. The house straddles a waterfall. The river flows under the home. Kaufmann’s original vision was a house at the base of the falls and was upset when Wright changed the plans. Wright maintained control over every aspect of the design, down to the furnishings and the knick-knacks.
Kaufmann challenged Wright’s cantilevered concrete terrace design. He brought in his own engineers to evaluate the soundness of the plans. Wright threatened to withdraw from the project due to this interference so Kaufmann relented. But Kaufmann was right to be concerned. In the late nineties, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy hired an architectural firm to fix Fallingwater’s structural integrity problems. The renovations finished in 2002 and maintained the exterior and interior appearance of the house.
Kaufmann’s son donated the home and property to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1963. The US designated it a National Historic Landmark in 1966. The UNESCO designation came in 2019.
Patty and I enjoyed touring Frank Lloyd Wright’s crowning achievement, but neither of us could see ourselves living there. The structure is striking. But the stone floors and other elements meant to bring the outdoors inside seem like they’d be uncomfortable for more than a day or two.
Western PA Posts➤
- Friendship Hill
- Fort Necessity
- Mount Washington Tavern
- Flight 93
- Flight 93 Tower
- Johnstown Flood
- Allegheny Portage
Location: 1491 Mill Run Rd, Mill Run, PA 15464
Designation: National Historic Landmark, UNESCO Heritage Site
Date designated/established: May 23, 1966
Date of my visit: October 8, 2022