Two of the homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright are within an easy drive of Hickory Hollow campground (click here to read our review) in Rockwood, PA. Buddy and Odel declined our invitation to tour the homes, so Jackie and I set off together on Sunday morning to visit Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, just six miles apart.
I’d heard of many times of Fallingwater, considered to be Wright’s “masterwork” of residential design. I’d never heard of Kentuck Knob. Both homes are now designated National Historic Landmarks. Visiting both on the same day was a stroke of serendipitous planning, as the two illustrate the opposite ends of Wright’s approach to home design and provided wonderful insights into the character of this unyielding, controlling, minimalist visionary.
Fallingwater was designed in 1935, and built over the next three years as a vacation home for the Edgar Kaufmann family at a cost of $155,000 – essentially an unlimited budget. Wright described the Kaufmanns as “nesters”, and designed a ground-breaking, light-filled, open-to-the-outdoors home nestled over a waterfall on Mill Run, deep in a forested canyon. It is easy to find photos of this incredible home on the internet - and visitors are prohibited from taking interior photographs.
Visitors to Fallingwater can pay $8 each to tour the grounds and exterior of the home, or $18 each for a tour of the interior. We declined the interior tour, but walked all the trails on the grounds and peered inside through the huge windows as we toured the exterior. Since interior photos are prohibited, I photographed the postcard I purchased for inclusion here. :)
Kentuck Knob, designed and built in the early 1950’s, was built on a much tighter budget by I.N. and Bernardine Hagen – a total eventual cost of $93,000. Wright described the Hagans as “perchers”, as they had selected the top of a bald “knob” (hill) as their building site, with distant vistas into the gorge of a nearby river. Because the Hagans put all their money into their new home, they furnished it with their outdoor furniture until they saved enough money to construct the plywood furniture designed by Wright.
Gorgeous porch and French doors facing view.
View from the rear, downhill side of the house.
The graveled “Zen” Driveway, to be raked daily!
Subdued front entrance to Kentuck Knob.
Unlike Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob photographs poorly. It is not possible to tour the grounds and exterior, then peer inside. Built on top of the knob, windows on two sides are accessible only standing on tiptoes; the broad windows and French doors opening onto the porch facing the view on the downhill side are 18 feet off the ground!
We took the tour, and were glad we did. Kentuck Knob is an example of Wright's Usonian architecture, designs for low-cost homes without attics or basements, small, one-story structures set on concrete slabs with piping for radiant heat beneath. Wright imagined that homeowners could save on costs by building their own home following his plans, but few did – could you?
In these photos, you might notice that Kentuck Knob is no longer bald. In the 1950’s, the knob had been completely deforested by blight. After completing their home, the Hagans planted 10,000 trees. Now, 50+ years later, the forest is fully grown, shady and full of birdsong. Most of the trees are deciduous, affording the original long views in winter and cool shade in summer.
What a great way to spend the day, especially in the company of my friend Jackie. Taking a different route home, we cruised the small town of Ohiopyle, adjacent to Ohiopyle State Park on the Youghiogheny River, known for its white water rafting. Next day, we were back – with the guys – for a hike in this beautiful area.