The Fallingwater Story
Another chapter of the WPC’s history, and a story in itself, is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Voted the most important building of the 20th century in a poll conducted by the American Institute of Architects, this masterpiece was entrusted to the Conservancy by Edgar Kaufmann jr. in October, 1963. Included with this generous gift were 1,543 acres surrounding the wild and beautiful Bear Run.
Fallingwater was designed in 1935 for Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar Kaufmann Sr. and was used as a mountain retreat by his family. The Kaufmanns became acquainted with the Conservancy when they were involved with the early acquisition of Ferncliff Peninsula, later to become the cornerstone of Ohiopyle State Park. Their son, Edgar Kaufmann jr., commented on the importance of Fallingwater when he said,
“Such a place cannot be possessed. It is a work of man for man; not by a man for a man. Over the years since it was built, Fallingwater has grown ever more famous and admired, a textbook example of modern architecture at its best. By its very intensity it is a public resource, not a private indulgence.”
Fallingwater came to the Conservancy with its buildings, collections and site intact. Following the death of Edgar Kaufmann jr, in 1989, The New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote,
“[the gift] constituted one of the grandest and most meaningful gestures of architectural philanthropy of our age.”
The donation was received under a deed of trust that requires the Conservancy to preserve and maintain the buildings. In 2006, more than 136,000 people visited the house and grounds of Fallingwater, and Fallingwater’s total visitation has surpassed four million guests since it opened to the public in 1964.
The Bear Run Nature Reserve has grown too; it has more than tripled in size from its original 1,543 acres. Today, the reserve encompasses almost 70 percent of the Bear Run watershed in its 5,061 acres. The reserve is a place where habitat is protected for native plants and animals and important ecological connections are sustained.