Nearly 150,000 people visit Fallingwater every year, and with good reason. In 1991, an American Institute of Architects poll voted it “the best all-time work of American architecture”.
In 2019, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee added Fallingwater to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
So with a list of accolades a mile long, it’s no wonder Fallingwater is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the PA Laurel Highlands!
A Brief History of Fallingwater
Fallingwater was the weekend home of Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr. and his family. The house, guest wing, and service wing were designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The project was completed in 1939.
The house was built from sandstone quarried locally on the Kaufmann’s property, and cost around $155,000 at the time (around $2.5 million today, adjusted for inflation).
Wright believed it was important that a building blend with its natural surroundings.
“No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other”
And with his design for Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright found that happy, harmonious balance.
The house remained in the Kaufmann family until 1963 when it was donated, along with the contents and 1750 acres of surrounding land, to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
The Conservancy now operates tours of the house, as well as other educational programs on the grounds.
The most up-to-date information on hours, tour packages, and potential closures (COVID-related or other) can be found at Fallingwater’s official website. Or you can call the Visitor Center there at 724-329-8501.
How to Find Fallingwater
Fallingwater is located approximately 19 miles south of the PA Turnpike’s Donegal exit, along Route 381.
Look for this entrance sign along Route 381 at GPS coordinates 39.900913, -79.465468.
Fallingwater is also just a few minutes north of Ohiopyle State Park, and certainly you’ll want to budget some time for sightseeing there as well.
Exploring the Interior of Fallingwater
Because the Kauffman family generously donated not only the house, but the contents as well to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Fallingwater looks remarkably similar to how it would have when being used as a private weekend retreat in the mid-twentieth century.
In this series of public domain images created for the Historic American Buildings Survey, you can see the rich, earthy details which marry the house to the surrounding landscape.
The many windows allowed the Kauffmans to take in the varied and wonderful views of Nature that surround Fallingwater.
There are no shortage of fantastic “book nooks” inside Fallingwater!
Touring the Grounds at Fallingwater
Even when tours of the inside of Fallingwater are not available, you can buy a “Grounds Pass” to tour the outside of the buildings, as well as the trails around the property.
The symmetry and attention to every architectural detail is impressive.
Even the Visitor Center at Fallingwater adheres to Wright’s principle of blending building with surroundings.
There are several well-marked trails to the various vantage points around the property.
The “Bird’s Eye View” of Fallingwater
This is what is referred to on the map provided at the Visitor Center as the “Bird’s Eye View”.
This is an excellent vantage point to get a top-down look at the cantilevered tiers of Fallingwater, suspended over the waterfalls below.
The “Classic View” of Fallingwater
This is the world-famous view you’ve no doubt seen countless times in books and articles about Fallingwater.
Guess what – it’s even better in person!
The “Bridge View” of Fallingwater
From the bridge over Bear Run, you have an outstanding view of the steps leading from the house to the stream, which I personally find one of the most interesting features of the house.
Final Thoughts on Exploring Fallingwater
Fallingwater and Frank Lloyd Wright have received just about every accolade and honor a building and it’s architect are capable of. More than 5 million people have visited Fallingwater since it opened to the public in 1964.
It is indeed a treasure of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and a well-preserved treasure at that.
If you had time to visit just one tourist attraction in the Laurel Highlands, Fallingwater would be near the top of my list of suggestions.
The architectural importance and sheer beauty of it make Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece a PA Bucket List item for sure!
Still not convinced you need to explore Fallingwater?
Then check out this video!
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Looking for more sightseeing destinations in the Laurel Highlands?
Then be sure to check out 23 Must-See Waterfalls in the Laurel Highlands for maps and directions to some of the finest waterfalls in the region.
If scenic vistas are your thing, be sure to check out The 10 Best Scenic Overlooks in the Laurel Highlands.
If “leaf peeping” is what brings you to western Pennsylvania, be sure to check out 20 Fabulous Fall Foliage Destinations in the Laurel Highlands of PA!
Fort Necessity National Battlefield in Fayette County is where the first shots of the French and Indian War were fired.
In addition to the replica of the fort itself, the Visitor Center contains an excellent museum that explains the causes and repercussions of this war that helped shape the face of North America.
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