Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Preserving Fallingwater for Public Benefit

Photo by Robert Ruschak

...and preserves Fallingwater, a symbol of people living in harmony with nature.

Fallingwater’s international reputation only grows with each passing year, and the number of annual visitors to this Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house reflects this trend. In 2008, the house and grounds welcomed 152,872 visitors – an all-time high and a five percent increase over 2007 visitation levels. In addition, Fallingwater was named to the U.S. Heritage Tentative List in 2008, a designation that could lead to its placement on the World Heritage List, which includes Monticello, the Taj Mahal and Stonehenge.

WPC works to ensure that Fallingwater remains accessible to its growing numbers of diverse visitors through a range of educational programs and activities. At the same time, Fallingwater staff members conduct careful restoration and conservation work to protect the house, its collections and its grounds for posterity.

Education and Outreach

The year 2008 – which marked 45 years since Fallingwater was first opened to the public – saw significant achievements in educational programming and outreach. Special programs geared toward a range of interests and ages ensured that Fallingwater continued to yield new experiences and fresh inspiration for its varied audiences.

Wright in Our Backyard. This program brought 3,115 southwestern Pennsylvania school students to participate in interactive workshops in 2008. Costs for the program were covered through the support of local businesses as well as WPC’s participation in the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program. Additionally, Fallingwater was part of Pi Day celebrations at the Student Center for Creativity in Latrobe, Earth Day celebrations at St. Vincent College and the Fayette County Water Festival in Uniontown, reaching another 1,050 students.

Falllingwater’s student residencies offer
hands-on learning opportunities.

Teacher Residencies. Teachers learned to use architecture to inspire students’ creativity across a range of disciplines through the Teacher Residency program. A total of 12 teachers from the United States and Canada participated in this program in 2008.

Student Residencies. Intense study sessions and workshops – combined with first-hand learning opportunities at Fallingwater – gave high school students a unique and personal perspective on a Frank Lloyd Wright masterwork. In 2008, a total of 19 students took advantage of this residency program.

Elderhostel. This popular, week-long program, which was conducted in collaboration with Laurelville Mennonite Church Center and Elderhostel International, enabled 46 people to explore Frank Lloyd Wright’s three houses in the Laurel Highlands: Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob and the Duncan House.

Exhibitions and Lectures. Exhibitions in 2008 included Good Design and the Modern Chair, which traced the evolution of the chair as a key element of modern design, and Brian Ferrell: Balance, an exhibition of handcrafted furniture by Greensburg artist Brian Ferrell. Events included lectures from acclaimed Loving Frank author Nancy Horan and from Brian Butko, historian and co-author of Roadside Attractions. In addition, more than 500 people attended Fallingwater’s inaugural season of lectures led by senior staff members.

Audio tours. Fallingwater introduced audio tours in Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Japanese in 2008 to accommodate international visitors. Also in 2008, Fallingwater was selected for the National Endowment for the Humanities’ “Picturing America” program. This program, which distributed poster-sized reproductions of 40 masterpieces of American art, along with an illustrated Teachers Resource Book, to classrooms and libraries nationwide, included an image of Fallingwater by photographer Harold Corsini. In October, Fallingwater hosted 200 conferees for the Annual Conference of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy.

Fallingwater’s sculpture collection includes this iron Budda head.


Careful preservation and restoration of Fallingwater ensures that the house, its furniture and art collections are protected even as they are impacted by weather and heavy visitation. Fallingwater staff members led several preservation projects in 2008:

  • • Failing concrete was repaired on the upstream side of Bear Run Bridge, a well-known feature of the grounds leading to the Main House.
  • • The stone chimney tower at the Main House was cleaned, removing rust staining and dirt and powder buildup.
  • • The second-floor hallway of the Main House was restored and repainted with an interior paint system developed by PPG Pittsburgh Paints.
  • • A historic barn on-site was stabilized with help of Amish craftsmen. This project involved replacement of sills, footings, and other framing members, along with a new roof.

Efforts to implement a Landscape Master Plan for Fallingwater also continued in 2008. Projects included ongoing removal of invasive species; tree trimming and removal of dead trees; the addition of flowering trees including redbud and dogwood; improvements to the naturalized plantings surrounding Fallingwater and reworking of its rooftop planter.