Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Tub Run COE campground and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

Saturday 15, 2013
#19 Tub Run COE Campground
Confluence, PA



To celebrate his narrow escape of yesterday, David wants to go out for breakfast. 


First we take a walk around Tub Run.  There are two small loops in the campground.  The first has electric no water and the second has neither.

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On the opposite side of the first loop from our site, number 19, the sites back up to the stream.   In the no electric loop one side backs up to the lake.






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At the end of the second loop is the boat ramp.  We find the water is WAY up.  It’s about 30’ up the ramp from where the concrete markers start.  You can see them sliding away in the water.  Apparently like everywhere else in the east they have had a LOT of rain here lately.

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Enough walking,time for breakfast.


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We drive over to nearby Confluence, PA and eat in a sweet little restaurant called Sisters’ Cafe.   The breakfast is fine.  We have the regular eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast. Well David has ham rather than bacon and that’s a bit of a shocker.  Nothing to write home about really but the prices are great.






It’s the home town place where everybody knows your name, IF you are from the neighborhood.  We are early apparently but while we are eating the place fills up.

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The scenery in this area is lovely.  Beautiful rolling hills with picturesque farms.  The roads are quite steep and curving.


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We head back over the hilly winding scenic roads to Ohiopyle trying to decide if we will hike or bike before our 2:00 Fallingwater Tour.    


We spend some time at Ohiopyle both before and after our tour of Fallingwater.  This turns out to be a bit of a mistake but Ohiopyle deserves its own post so I’ll do that one tomorrow and go right to Fallingwater.



After some time in Ohiopyle, it is 1:00 and  I want to get to Fallingwater a little ahead of our tour time.  Not enough in advance as it turns out.


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It’s only about a 5 minute drive up the mountain from Ohiopyle to Fallingwater.  From the parking area we walk down the wooded path to the Pavilion.

The Fallingwater pavilion houses the visitors center, a cafe, museum store and educational exhibit.  It is also a unique building designed by Edgar Kaufman Junior’s life companion  architect Paul Mayen. 







This open air pavilion added in 1979-1981 fits in perfectly with its wooded surroundings. 


The photo below from the web shows the Pavilion empty but you can see the walk up counters where you check in for your tour and the totally open sides of this round open air building.

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Here’s my view.  The museum store is on the far left.  The picture is taken from the Educational Exhibit room. Each of these rooms and the cafe are separate “pods” off of the main circular pavilion.



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We check in for our tour, visit the educational exhibit and take a quick look around in the museum store while we wait for our tour.






visitor center While in the education exhibit, we learn about all the educational  opportunities for every age group, including adults, to spend time and attend programs at Fallingwater.  With residencies, camps, lifelong learning programs and more, it is really amazing how much of their mission is educational.  The Junior Mr. Kaufman,a professor of Art History at Columbia University in New York made his donation of the house in large part to provide for these educational opportunities.

There is also information about the Kaufman family and about Frank Lloyd Wright.  I now wish I had arrived earlier so I could have had more time to prepare myself for what I was about to see.   Do come early, especially if your tour is in the afternoon.

I smile at one quote from Wright “man cannot improve upon nature only reveal, describe and intensify it through art”.  These are the very same sentiments expressed by Walter Anderson (1903-1963) a contemporary of Wright (1867-1959).  No wonder I like both men so well, I totally agree with their philosophies.  Plus they are both genius eccentrics which is an added bonus in my book.


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Although I am not a real fan of “modern architecture”, I am a great fan of Wright’s “Organic Architecture” in which there is harmony between the structure and the natural world.  They are so well integrated  that “buildings, furnishings and surroundings become part of a unified integrated composition.”


Our tour #44 is called just before 2:00.   A group of 14 people assemble.  I appreciate the small size.  But as it turns out David and I are the only ones who ask any questions. I think that’s too bad.   We walk down a path to our first sight of the house where we are met by our guide at the bottom of the driveway.  He advises us to take no pictures and to touch nothing.  These are the original furnishings of the Kaufman family.  The built in furniture was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for these people, in this house, in this place.   I am actually glad about the no pictures in that I get to spend much more time looking and experiencing rather than trying to photograph everything.   Thus all interior pictures were taken from the web and they aren’t necessarily the ones I would have taken.  Neither are they all that great.  So you’ll have to come see for  yourself.



Fallingwater appears to have grown out of rather than been placed in this lovely natural area.


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It is one with the rocks, the trees, the water.    Wright based the structure on three steel-reinforced concrete pads and cantilevered the house over the waterfall.  Fallingwater projects outward above the cascade without any support pillars.  It seems suspended in mid-air. Totally at one with its surroundings.   Amazing.

The house was built between 1936 and 1939 as a summer home for The Stephen J. Kaufman family who owned Kaufman Department stores in Pittsburg apparently a very elegant place to shop in the 1930’s.

The Kaufman’s were expecting a home that would enable them to have a wonderful view of the waterfall.  Instead, Wright told them he wanted them to live with the falls not just observe them.  Fallingwater is an architectural marvel with multiple cantilevered balconies built over the waterfall on Bear Run creek.



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Edgar Kaufman Sr outlived his wife and at his death in 1955, the home went to his only son Edgar Kaufman Junior.  In 1963 Kaufman Jr. entrusted it to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.  The house remains today exactly as its owners left it.  All furnishings, books and art works are those of the Kaufman family.  The art on the walls include several pieces by both Diego Rivera and Pablo Picasso.

Much of the furniture is built in and was also designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  He preferred horizontal lines so all of the wood in the house and the stone work has its grain running horizontally.

You will see this shade of red, Wright’s signature color, throughout both the inside and outside of the house.  Also interesting to me as it is the same color as the kitchen and entry porch trim in our farmhouse.




The interior ceilings are low.  The furniture and lines are horizontal.  It gives me the feeling of being very grounded and secure in this indoor/outdoor house even though it appears to be floating over a waterfall.   Everything is made of wood, metal, glass and stone.  Despite being deep in a forest, inside the house it is surprisingly light.  Glass is everywhere.  You are outside when you are inside.




To the far left in the picture above is this glassed in staircase leading down to the water spilling over the waterfall.  When the glass is slid open at the top and on the front edge you can walk down the steps as well as hear the waterfall even more clearly although all the windows in the structure open for the sounds and breezes from the outside.


interior stairs to the water


Horizontal shelves above the fireplace run around the interior rock walls which are placed in horizontal patterns.  Notice the boulders of the fireplace, the house was built around them.  They are both inside and outside the house.


Interior fireplace


To provide minimal obstruction of the view, many corners of the house are glass meeting glass.  I find this astonishing.


interior window corners


The dining area with a portrait of the senior Edgar Kaufman on the wall by the stairs, which like all the stair cases inside and out are free floating.  This shows a good view of the horizontal shelves, rounding a corner and of the horizontal rock work.  


interior kaufman portrait


The upstairs floor contains two bedrooms each with its own full bath, walls and floors of cork.  The third floor is the “penthouse” which was the rooms of Edgar Kaufman Jr who was 27 when the house was built.

Notice how the windows open, each has screens.   The desk has a hole cut in it so that the floor to ceiling window can open to the outside.   Each bedroom has its own deck.  These you can see better from the outside pictures.


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Notice that like the furniture on the ground floor, the desk is no higher than the bottom of the window.  Neither are the balcony ledges.  Nothing obstructs your view of the outside.


interior bedroom



When I ask about the upkeep of the house and particularly the effects of snow and water on the many flat horizontal surfaces, our guide remarks with a smile that the architect left maintenance to the owner.  He did say that snow is hand shoveled off of the roofs of the walk ways and balconies.  I had read that Kaufman Sr referred jokingly to his home as Rising Mildew.   In 2002 a major restoration was undertaken as Fallingwater was literally falling.  Happily, none of the stabilizing features are visible either inside or outside.

Our tour takes an hour as we move through all floors of the house and the guest “cottage” constructed behind but connected to the house.  It is a lot to take in in an hour.   I wish the tickets weren’t so costly.  I would love to have gone through 2 or 3 more times with different guides.


We are now free to wander around the outside of the house and grounds and take as many pictures as we want.  We first take a close up look around the outside of the house and balconies.


Below is the floating staircase into the falls water approaching the drop off.  This is the glassed in staircase that goes down from the living room.


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The rock work is amazing.  So natural looking, the house appears to have grown here.


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The rear of the house is anchored into these large boulders, the driveway is paved around them.  Other boulders, like those of the fireplace,  are both inside and outside the house.  The house was built around them, integrated into its landscape.


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Trees are not removed, the house is designed around them.


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Another floating staircase leads to one of the outdoor bedroom balconies.


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The stairway handrails are also horizontal lines.  


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Edgar Kaufman Jr left the house and the original 2500 acres in the care of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy who have since added another 2500 acres to the estate to include the entire Bear Run watershed thus protecting the waterfall forever.  This area is now the Bear Run Nature Preserve.


We follow paths to the lower viewing area where a fellow tourist takes these pictures of us against the backdrop of the house at a distance.  I think the second one looks as though we have been superimposed upon a postcard of Fallingwater. 


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We then wander a ways down this path.  Shhhhhh do not tell.  But time is growing short and we unfortunately run out of time before we reach the bottom to find out where the path leads….to the lower what???  Lower falls???  The path is quite rough from the heavy rains so I can understand why they have closed it off to the general non hiking public.  But I do wish I’d had an earlier tour so I could get to the bottom of this mystery.


We walk back in the direction of the Pavilion and parking lot.  We take the path to the upper view of the house.  The paths to upper and lower views wind through the dense woods to come to their view points.  I wonder how they keep these views clear without seeming to disturb the vegetation around the house.


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Today Fallingwater is a National Historic Landmark and has just welcomed its Five MILLIONTH visitor.  The annual visitation is up to about 175,000 people a year.  So expect to share your day with a lot of other people no matter what time of year you come.  It is open all year long and I would love to see it in winter. 


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Fallingwater is the only major Frank Lloyd Wright designed house open to the public with its furnishings, artwork and setting intact.


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This is a great spot for sitting quietly and I wish I had lots of time.  In hind sight I realize I could easily have spent the entire day here from when the gates open at 8:30 am to its closing at 4:30.


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Fallingwater is as much a work of art as it is a home.  In the gift shop I find a biography of the house.  I am very anxious to read the story of the collaboration of Edgar J. Kaufman Sr. and Frank Lloyd Wright on this stunning piece of architecture.  The title seems very clever until I remember Kaufman’s nickname for his house.  Very funny!


Fallingwater Rising


  1. Everything I know about Frankl Lloyd Wright (which, as you can imagine, is exhaustive), I know from reading that book. You know, that book. Wife is murdered. <--- spoiler alert

    1. Are you talking about Loving Frank? I read that one too. Not wife but mistress murdered supposedly. Remember it's historical fiction. Not biography.

    2. Oh, facts schmacts. It happened, that's all I know!

  2. That is an incredible house. We wanted to visit Taliesin West in Scottsdale, AZ but couldn't bring ourselves to pay the tour prices, varying from $24-$60. Maybe they are trying to keep out riff raff like us!

    1. Interesting since I understood that Taliesin actually burned to the ground. So is this something Wright rebuilt or a wanna be???

  3. An amazing tour, how clever everything was tied into nature instead of destroying it. Thanks for the great post...and the great pictures of you both! :c)

  4. Terrific pictures of you and an amazing place. Thanks for sharing!

  5. The house is beautiful and you describe it so well. I have to admit, having lived in a house in Western NC that was in a heavily forested area, I can just imagine the maintenance and problems associated with Fallingwater.

  6. So glad David is feeling better and you were both able to enjoy the tour together. Thanks for taking us along!!! It is a beautiful place and one I know you would truly enjoy:o)) Working with nature instead of distroying it...what a wonderful idea!!

  7. Thank you for such a detailed post about this place. Love the pics of you both, and you're right, it does look like a postcard!

  8. so is Kentucky Knob not open entirely to the public?

  9. What a cool house and great tour! Thank you! Glad David was able to join you.

  10. Sherry, you make a great tour guide! Looks like a wonderful blend of house and nature. One question I always am interested to know when there is a collaboration such as this.... Was the homeowner satisfied with the end result.... What would they have done differently?

  11. Well, obviously David is much better! yay! great pictures and of course house...

    The man loved nature. He built a theater in Turtle Creek, a neighborhood in Dallas, Texas ... one of his last completions... hah! I had to google ... I haven't been there in eons. Used to live in the area... many moons ago. I know a lot of people who go on journeys to just see his creations. good stuff.


    I'm on a quest to find me a Sister's type breakfast place ... got to be one... just has to be. Little Rock can not be devoid of such a place.

  12. Wright's architectural design is so unique, like a signature. Interesting that many houses in Yarnell are also built around the huge boulders. You make a natural tour guide and this was a wonderful tour.

  13. I was last there in 1999, when it was falling. The bracing used was not very attractive. It is nice to see that it has been discreetly restored to stability.

  14. HeyJuke50 - Kentuck Knob is privately owned. I went there in 1999 as well as part of a Smithsonian trip. At that time, it was owned by a British Lord. Don't know if he still owns it.

  15. Hey, you found our photo-op spot at Fallingwater ;-)

    We've been to two FLW-designed houses -- Taliesin West and Fallingwater. Both beautifully co-exising with nature. We enjoyed both visits, but not being true-aficianados, it's doubtful we would pay the bucks to take a tour of another one.

  16. Carol and I enjoyed our visits to Taliesin West and Fallintg Waters. Been to both twice and enjoyed them. A Frank Loyd Wright style house is being built next door to us. It is nestled into the woods but the views from the nouse are similar to Taliesen West. It is beautiful - can't wait for it to be finished.

  17. Love this place... and I do love his architecture. The new house being built "down the hill" is fashioned after his designs. We love watching it going up. If I had another lifetime... I might try to do something like this on a much smaller scale. Love the windows... and the natural settings.. building around the trees. Nice to see you both looking so good and enjoying the Falling Waters beauty. Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland are all beautiful states. for sure! We are happy to be back in our corner of the woods after an exciting trip to Arkansas for Simon's wedding... and on to Texas for the Texas Water Safairi. Roger was in his "element"... just wishing he was in the boat WITH Amy.


  18. Could you hear the waterfall in the house? How annoying would it be to never get away from the noise of the falls when outside?

  19. How wonderful you guys had this opportunity! I'm a huge fan Of FLW, hope to visit here someday. Ken Burns did a documentary on the house. Well worth seeking out and viewing! It was fascinating and informative, might be rent-able? Great tour, thanks for sharing.

  20. Much appreciate your detailed review of Fallingwater, a place I have always wanted to see. I love the FLW architecture in downtown Chicago, near my childhood home. If you ever get the chance, take the architectural tour on the Chicago River. It's phenomenal to see the internationally renowned architecture from that vantage point.

  21. That's a nice picture of you and David. I assume he is feeling better despite the tick bite.

    I love the idea of building the house around the trees, instead of cutting them down like most builders. Interesting place.

  22. Wow! A house designed AROUND the trees- awesome! Unlike our newly developing subdivision Dunlora Forest in which they mowed down all of the trees. Guess who got a ticket for having an inspection sticker dated 3/13? Don't you dare say, "I told you so." Apparently I can take my proof of inspection in and they will drop the ticket. Have fun! XXXOOO

  23. Wow - that's incredible - I'm so glad it's a conservancy with so much land around it. You are right about the photo - it does look superimposed, however, I think it's a very good shot of both you and Dad. I cannot imagine hand-shoveling snow off that entire home. I love the windows - glass to glass - and the fact that they kept all the furniture low enough that it would not block the view. 5 million visitors - WOW - wonder if he knew in his lifetime what a monument that would become?!

  24. We were sort of ships passing in the night. I sure wish I had had the trailer along…I would have dilly dallied my way up and down on back roads. I passed a lot of flood warning signs and many lakes filled to the brim and over. There was another blogger who is off the road, now, but she traveled from Loyd house to Loyd house just as some of us do with light houses and covered bridges. Very interesting post, as always.


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