With my recovery from hip replacement surgery finally behind me, I am venturing out on a short trip to Pittsburgh and a visit with Debby, my freshman year roommate at Chatham College. We have been friends since 1967 with a 35 year hiatus between 1971 and 2006 when we reconnected at a reunion. We picked up right where we’d left off and since then, see each other every couple of years.
In addition to spending time in Pittsburgh, we have two outings planned: one to Falling Water, the famously original home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in rural Pennsylvania, about an hour’s drive east of Pittsburgh; the other, to Cleveland and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Our visit to Falling Water is preceded by a worthwhile stop at Kentuck Knob, a Usonian home designed by Wright for the Hagen family 20 years subsequent to Falling Water. The Usonian concept was geared toward the middle class and came in three different versions. Kentuck Knob is of the Grand Usonian type.
Every detail was important to Wright: the type and grain of wood or stone that was used in the construction; the angles of the building and its features (he hated right angles); the orientation towards the sun; the integration of the building with the surrounding site and the natural world outside. He was brilliantly creative and notoriously demanding. For instance, Wright refused to make changes that clients wanted. If he visited a client’s home after it was finished and an item that he had placed was moved, he’d return it to its original position.
Falling Water was designed in 1935 for the Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh which owned the noted department store by the same name. It does not disappoint. I had longed to see it for many years. It is a stunning home, cantilevered and terraced dramatically over a waterfall and stream called Bear Run. The problem, though, is that it leaked and the interior was terribly damp. Being there on a rainy day, we experience this firsthand. The view from across the stream is iconic and spectacular.
The following day, we visit a third location where there are two Usonian homes, one very basic, the other Grand. The interesting fact about these was that they were disassembled piece-by-piece in Illinois and Minnesota, respectively, and then reassembled in Polymath Park. The process took two years for each of them. This Grand Usonian is particularly lovely, cozier and more inviting to my eye than the others we had seen.
After a day back in Pittsburgh, we drive to Cleveland, where I have never been. It had not occurred to me to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but when Debby suggested it, I immediately said yes. And what a trip! We spend four hours experiencing the greatest music of our generation, and to top it off, there is a Beatles exhibit that includes excerpts of Peter Jackson’s eight-hour documentary and the final Beatles concert on the roof of their Apple studio. There are also film clips of the remaining band members performing with other major musicians at various RRHF inductions. As we used to say, what a gas!