Entrusted to WPC in 1963
Entrusting the conservation and preservation of an architectural masterpiece to a nature organization may seem unusual, but our work to enrich and connect people to nature embodies the same goals Frank Lloyd Wright had for Fallingwater.
Edgar J. Kaufmann, Sr. (1885-1955), his wife Liliane S. Kaufmann (1889-1952) and their son Edgar, jr (1910-1989) appreciated the serenity and beauty of the mountains of Southwestern Pennsylvania. They regularly traveled from Pittsburgh to Fayette County, Pa. to escape the smoky air from steel mills and fish, swim and boat the county’s creeks and streams. The Kaufmanns desired to build a house in this place where they often enjoyed nature. So, in 1935, Wright designed their mountain retreat, Fallingwater, over the waterfall and creek the family had come to appreciate.
Fallingwater is located in the mountains of Southwestern Pennsylvania, also known as the Laurel Highlands, in Mill Run, Pa. in Fayette County – about 70 miles east of Pittsburgh. Wright designed Fallingwater to rise above the waterfall over which it is built. The Kaufmanns owned, lived in, enjoyed and used Fallingwater for many years.
In October 1963, Edgar Kaufmann jr entrusted Fallingwater to the care of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Edgar jr.’s comments made at the ceremony of transmission of Fallingwater to the Conservancy best express the significance of Fallingwater for the Kaufmann family, the public and the Conservancy.
Edgar 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." He also noted, "In Fallingwater, Wright captured the perfect essence of our desire to live with nature: to dwell in a forested place and be at home in the natural world."
Included with this generous gift were 1,500 acres surrounding Fallingwater and the wild and beautiful Bear Run. Today, this land is Bear Run Nature Reserve, an area of great natural diversity with stunning outcroppings of Pottsville sandstone. The reserve is open to the public and managed by the Conservancy.
Fallingwater came to the Conservancy with its buildings, collections and site intact. Following the death of Edgar 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 Fallingwater and its surroundings. In 2016, more than 180,000 people visited the house and grounds of Fallingwater, and Fallingwater’s total visitation has surpassed 5.5 million guests since it opened to the public in 1964.