Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob

After visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio in Chicago years ago, my husband and I had always planned to visit Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania.  

This year we decided to take our daughters.  Fallingwater is exactly a 3-hour drive from our home in suburban Maryland.  My husband loves nature and hiking and I love art. 

Fallingwater would be the perfect marriage of our two passions.

Source: Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

The History of Fallingwater

Fallingwater was the weekend home of Edgar Kaufmann, his wife Liliane, and their son Edgar Jr.  Edgar Sr. owned Kaufmann’s, a Pittsburgh department store.

Edgar Jr. was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright’s and his parents soon became friends with their son’s teacher. 

They commissioned the architect to set their home near a waterfall.  Imagine their surprise when the house was planned above the waterfall rather than facing it. 

Fallingwater would become Wright’s masterpiece and is the only major Wright residence on view with its original furnishings and artwork.  It was designed in 1936 and completed in 1939.  In 1963, Edgar Jr. entrusted the house to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Credit: Jeffrey Neal

Fallingwater Guided Tours

You can only view the house by taking a guided tour.  Fallingwater gets busy, especially on weekends, so it’s best to buy your tickets online in advance. 

We chose the regular one hour guided tour since our daughters are 11 and 15. Kids under 6 are not allowed on tours.

There is also a more in-depth two hour tour and a few other special tours including a family field trip. 

Source: Fallingwater

Self-Guided Tour

You can explore just the grounds for $16 a person but you won’t be able to see the house interior. 

This Grounds Pass gives you access the grounds of Fallingwater and exterior access.

If you do have kids under 6, they can come with you and they are free.

Make sure to download or pick-up a copy of the visitor guide which gives suggestions for where to walk and explore.

Note:  Children 6 and over are welcome on the regular tour and children 9 and over are allowed on special tours.  No large bags or purses are allowed inside the house and interior photography is prohibited on regular tours.

Source: Fallingwater

Family Field Trip Tours

If you have kids under 6 and still want a guided tour, you’ll want to sign-up for the family field trip.

This tour is geared towards children and incorporates science, technology, art and history of Fallwater. This tour also hs more activities to keep the kids engaged and they will leave with a sourvenir bag as well.

When You Arrive

As you enter the Fallingwater complex, you will show your tickets at the gatehouse. 

From there, park the car and head over to the Visitor Center.  Arrive for your tour at least 15 minutes early.  Your group number will be called.  A tour guide will direct your group to walk a quarter of a mile past two cutting gardens to the bridge right before Fallingwater where you will be met by another tour guide.

Source: AaronBarlow

What to Expect

It was love at first sight for my younger daughter. Upon entering the house she exclaimed “I can’t even imagine living in a house like this” and “I’d love to live here.” 

The first room is the living room, which has panoramic windows, a built-in couch, and even a hatch with steps so that the Kaufmanns could dip their feet in the stream below. 

The ingenious dining room table could expand to serve 20 and a fireplace with a built-in red kettle was there for warming cider and wine. Fans are thoughtfully provided for visitors to cool off with as the house gets hotter with every level.

We proceeded upstairs to the second floor to see the guest bedroom and the two master bedrooms.  Every bedroom in the house has its own expansive terrace.  Edgar Jr. lived on the third floor of the house and had his own bedroom, den, and bathroom.  The third floor terrace features an herb garden.

Next, we walked up to the guest house through a canopy.  Apparently, when it rains, the canopy creates curtains of rain.  The swimming pool at the guest terrace was Mrs. Kaufman’s favorite spot. 

The final stop on the tour is the carport, where you watch a short video about the house and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. 

The Tour Guide

Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and kid-friendly.  She gave information about Wright’s design principles and the materials used in building the house. 

When she noticed that my older daughter was wearing an Audubon T-shirt, she made sure to point out each of the five original Audubons. 

After The Tour

After the tour, we walked a quarter mile to “the view,” a fabulous vantage point where you can see how the house sits atop of the waterfall.  I would love to visit again and see this view in another season. 

This spot is the perfect photo opportunity but you have to go down steps to reach it. 

A handicapped accessible view is unfortunately not nearly as good. We would like to return when the rhododendrons are in bloom around July Fourth or when the wisteria  are in bloom around Mother’s Day.

Fallingwater is located on Bear Run Nature Preserve.  Nature trails connect to Fallingwater’s upper parking lot.  We did not have time to explore the preserve but information about its twenty miles of hiking trails is available online.

The Cafe

After the tour, we stayed and had lunch at the Café.  The food was a little pricey but surprisingly good and nutritious.  You are afterall paying for a mix of convenience and food quality. Fresh herbs from the terrace are used to season the food. 

If you don’t want to spend as much on the kid’s meals, order a soup, hot dog or pepperoni roll for them. If your children like mine are slow eaters, you can read the substantial signage about the Kaufmann family, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Fallingwater.

The Gift Shop

The gift shop has an extensive selection of children’s books, games, and crafts, as well as wide range of books and gifts for adults. 

The helpful Visitor Center has a number of brochures on local attractions, a binder with menus from area restaurants, and giveaway directions to other attractions including Kentuck Knob.

Source: Kentuck Knob

Visiting Kentuck Knob

If you are short on time, just visit Fallingwater.  However, Kentuck Knob, another Frank Lloyd Wright house, is a mere seven miles away in Chalk Hill, PA and well worth a visit. 

This smaller one-story Usonian (affordable) home, built from 1954-56 is actually a more typical Wright-designed residence.

I.N. and Bernardine Hagan owned a dairy and were friends with the Kaufmanns.  The Hagans fell in love with Fallingwater and commissioned their own house by Wright.  Kentuck Knob looks like a ship’s prow emerging from a hill.

Source: Kentuck Knob

Kentuck Knob Tours

Regular tours (30-40 minutes) for ages 6 and up can be booked in advance at the Fallingwater website.  For more specialized tours go online.  Plan to arrive 15 minutes in advance. 

First go to the visitor center.  When your tour is called, you will take the shuttle bus up the hill.  Your driver will tell you a little background information about the house. 

The House

After the drive, you will be met by a guide in the house’s courtyard.  She explained that the house plan is based on a hexagon and that shape is repeated throughout the house.

The living room of the house has a large panoramic window and another invisible window that links the outdoors to the indoors.  The living room contains built-in furniture by Wright and a collection of chairs designed by him for other properties.

Source: Kentuck Knob

The dining room is an extension of the long beautiful terrace.  The 1950’s style kitchen has fun flip down burners and a large Westinghouse oven.   The house has three bedrooms.  Viewing both houses reinforces your knowledge of Wright’s design principles such as his love of organic architecture, narrow hallways, expansive living areas, and plenty of windows. 

Please note: no large bags or purses are permitted inside Kentuck Knob and interior photography is prohibited.

Kentuck Knob is privately owned by Peter Palumbo of London, England. The Palumbo family visit Kentuck Knob annually, but do not stay within the house.  Children will be intrigued by the family’s collections on display in the rooms.

Source: Kentuck Knob

The Exterior

A short walk outside gives you a spectacular view of the Youghioghney River Gorge.

We could have taken a 20 minute walk back to the visitor center but we chose to take the shuttle bus back.

The greenhouse, site of the Visitor Center, gift shop, and café, once belonged to Fallingwater.

An outdoor sculpture garden has an eclectic collection with two 1902 British postal boxes, architectural birdhouses, and a giant apple core by Claus Oldenburg., and  other sculptures by contemporary artists. 

Source: Kentuck Knob

Allow at least two hours for Kentuck Knob.  Our older daughter described the day as “very fun and very busy.”  Little did she know that there was much more to come.

The Gift Shop & Café

The gift shop has a large selection of books, some kids stuff, and some fun, quirky housewares and kitchen gadgets.  At the adjoining café you can get a sandwich, drink, and scoop of ice cream. 

The café cleverly features Hagan brand ice cream.  Visitors can put together the 500-piece Kentuck Knob jigsaw puzzle in the café.

Like the Visitor Center at Fallingwater, the café boasts a number of brochures and handy direction cards to nearby attractions.

Other Area Attractions

We returned to Ohiopyle, a town right between Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob just in time for the last half hour of the Music in the Mountains Festival

We enjoyed live music and saw exhibits on Native Americans, animal pelts, and dying and spinning.  My younger daughter got to try out walking on stilts. 

The natural slides in the river looked very enticing, but it was almost time for dinner.  Afterwards we headed to Nemacolin for dinner.

Once at Nemacolin, we followed the signs to the animal habitats. We saw a tiger, white lion, some goats, and black bears.  We missed the zebras and buffalo and the petting zoo.

Across from the animal enclosures is a playground for young children.  We then parked near the entrance of the property and then made our long and winding trip through the main building to the Tavern. 

Along the way, we saw the library with its incredible collection of Tiffany lamps, the 1950’s style pizza and ice cream parlor with outfits worn by Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, a fortune telling machine (doesn’t give you cards), and a fossil and shell museum.

Thanks to the attractions of Nemacolin, we did not get home until 12:30 in the morning.

While my daughters had originally been reluctant to get up early for a long drive after a tiring week of school, they bought into the experience upon entering Fallingwater and all of us had a wonderful and educational day.

Good to Know Before You Go to Falling Water

  • Arrive at least 20 minutes before your tour to give enough time for parking and check-in
  • The tour includes 110 steps but did not feel vigorous at all. 
  • Only at the carport is sitting allowed as all the other furniture is original.
  • Both restrooms at the Visitor Center have changing tables. 
  • A water fountain is outside. 
  • There are no restrooms available on the grounds or in the house so visit the bathroom before any tour.

Good to Know Before You Go to Kentuck Knob

  • Kentuck Knob hours are 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., except Wednesdays when gates open at noon.

  • The house is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day and January and February.
  • A free standing building next to the parking lot has restrooms with no changing tables. 
  • There are no restrooms available on the grounds or in the house so visit the bathroom before any tour.
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Emma Williams

Emma was born and raised in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the state with her 3 kids, husband and Labrador. She loves nature and finding new, fun places to go.