“A building should grace its environment rather than disgrace it.”
– Frank Lloyd Wright, Hugh Downs interview, 1952
The Laurel Highlands is graced with three Frank Lloyd Wright properties, which have made the region a destination for architectural lovers. Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob, and Polymath Park will offer tours from March through November in 2023, with some additional tours available in December.
Here’s a look at what’s new for the tour season, which kicks off March 11 for Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob and March 17 for Polymath Park.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Fallingwater draws visitors from all over the world. Designed by Wright for Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann in 1935, the structure – with its cantilevered levels rising above the waterfall of Bear Run – has attracted worldwide attention since its completion in 1938.
Fallingwater’s tours are offered daily – except Wednesdays – from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Nov. 26, 2023.
More than 6 million guests have toured the home since it was first opened to the public in 1964, and its 60th season will offer more options. This year, Fallingwater is offering a new exterior tour, Guided Grounds Walking Tour ($25). Educators will provide insights into the Bear Run landscape that inspired Wright to design Fallingwater.
The popular Guided Architectural Tour ($35), which includes full grounds access, returns in 2023.
Visitors can reserve an In-Depth Tour ($87), which allows smaller groups of visitors to explore additional spaces of the main and guest houses not on the regular Guided Architectural Tour. These tours are offered at the beginning and end of the day.
A Grounds Pass ($15) allows exterior access, but the interior of the house is not included.
A variety of specialty tours are also offered, including an outdoor family educational experience on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These Family Field Trips ($28) provide kids of all ages with learning activities in observation and sketching, along with a souvenir bag. Starting in May, Fallingwater will offer Focus Tours ($1,800 for four) that include a seasonal meal created by Fallingwater’s executive chef, Brittany Savage, and served on the house’s Pottery Terrace. These private tours offer a tailored experience of Fallingwater with behind-the-scenes access and delicious food.
For those wanting to visit virtually, Fallingwater will offer “A Closer Look” on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. These live broadcast experiences give attendees special access to Fallingwater with details and perspectives that are not observable on regular tours.
The Speyer Gallery, located in the Visitor Center, will feature “Sacred Spaces: Frank Lloyd Wright and Andrew Pielage,” which features photographs captured by Pielage over his decade-long project to document Wright’s work. His work juxtaposes traditional places of worship with iconic Wright houses, museums, and civic spaces.
The traveling exhibition is curated by architectural journalist Sam Lubell and organized by Fallingwater, Beth Sholom Preservation Foundation, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and Taliesin Preservation, Inc.
From Oct. 15 through Dec. 31 the Speyer Gallery will showcase “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Southwestern Pennsylvania: The Fallingwater Projects,” which features unbuilt projects Wright designed for the Kaufmann family at Fallingwater, including a chapel, a gatehouse, and a farmer’s cottage.
The Fallingwater Institute Courses
A variety of programs, including on-site residencies and virtual workshops, classes, and residencies, are available to high school and college students, teachers, design professionals, and other professional learners through the Fallingwater Institute.
Participants can gain a deeper knowledge, understanding, and analysis of Fallingwater and Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas of organic architecture by exploring sustainable design practices through hands-on exercises and immersive experiences. Working independently and as teams, participants are challenged to think creatively to solve design challenges.
Fallingwater Institute programs are held at various times throughout the year and advance registration is required.
Fayette County Appreciation Days
Fallingwater will offer free admission to Fayette County residents on March 19 and Nov. 19.
Each year, Fallingwater thanks Fayette County residents by inviting them to experience Fallingwater during Fayette County Appreciation Days. County residents had an important role in Fallingwater's history and remain actively involved as staff and volunteers in its ongoing preservation, interpretation, and stewardship.
Advance reservations for tours are essential to guarantee admission. Free tours are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Residents, including families with children, are encouraged to call 724-329-8501 for information and reservations.
Just seven miles southwest of Fallingwater and high atop a bluff overlooking the Youghiogheny River Gorge stands another Wright architectural masterpiece in Kentuck Knob. Situated just below the crest of the hill, the home – which was built for I.N. and Bernardine Hagan – appears almost part of the mountain itself and is an extraordinary interpretation of Wright's Usonian ideals.
Kentuck Knob will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., March 11 to Nov. 4, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. fNov. 5 to Nov. 26.
Guided House Tours ($28) include the interior and exterior of the home, as well as the Woodland Walk, and last about 45 minutes. In-Depth House Tours ($75) consist of a 90-minute tour with a guide.
Kentuck Knob will host Friends & Neighbors Days on April 2 and Nov. 12. These events are free to members of the local community by invitation.
KentuckKnob.com has been redesigned for 2023.
“The new website is streamlined and user-friendly, and we’re excited for visitors to use it to book their tours,” said Timothy Fischer, manager of Frank Lloyd Wright’s House on Kentuck Knob. “We will be adding an online store to the website in the very near future, so guests will be able to shop for Kentuck Knob-themed gifts and souvenirs from the comfort of their homes.”
As the only property in the Laurel Highlands that allows guests to stay overnight in a Frank Lloyd Wright property, Polymath Park has been a popular option for architecture lovers since opening in 2007. Polymath Park includes two Wright homes – the Duncan house and Mantyla – that were built in the Midwest and relocated to Polymath Park as well as two designed by Wright apprentice Peter Berndston – the Balter and Blum houses – and built on the Westmoreland County property.
Polymath Park’s 2023 season runs from March 17 to Nov. 19.
An exciting addition this year is the Complete Collection Tour ($45), which will allow guests to visit all four properties in one tour. Tours will be offered on Sundays from April 21 to Oct. 31.
The Wright Collection Tour ($30), Lunch Tour ($73), TreeHouse Brunch Tour ($100) Taste of Organic Architecture 3-House Dinner Tour ($125), and TreeHouse Dinner Tour ($175) are also available.
As Polymath Park’s reputation for incredible dining has expanded so, too, have its options. The treehouse village has grown to seven pods with one that can accommodate up to six guests. (The others are for four.) Guests can now enjoy TreeHouse at Twilight Dining ($150), 5 p.m. Treehouse Dinner ($150), Tapas and a Treehouse ($85), TreeHouse Dayspring Brunch ($95), TreeHouse Lunch or Treehouse Tea.
New for 2023 is 5-Branch Dining in TreeTops Restaurant ($119). Guests can enjoy champagne upon arrival and listen to the story of how Polymath Park and TreeTops Restaurant took root and grew into what they are today. Five prix fixe courses or “branches” will be served as part of the experience.
An intimate outdoor bar serving tapas is also set to open this summer.