Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Fallingwater Balances Outreach, Preservation


Fallingwater edged closer to a milestone in 2012 – its 5 millionth visitor. As the year wrapped up and the staff prepared to close the house for the winter, attendance teetered near that mark, helped along by the 160,602 people who visited the site during the season. The 2012 attendance was the third highest ever recorded.

The milestone illustrates how the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is fulfilling the promise it made to Edgar Kaufmann jr. decades ago. Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann’s only child gave Fallingwater to WPC with the desire that it be shared with the public and become a center for thought and learning about art, architecture and the natural world.

To that end, Fallingwater continued to offer educational programs that reach broad audiences in 2012. For example, Wright in Our Backyard – a hands-on program about nature, architecture, engineering and art – hosted 1,236 students from third grade to 12th grade from nearby Fayette, Somerset, Butler, Washington, Greene and Westmoreland counties. Also last year, 21 adult, lifelong learners participated in Insight/Onsite, an in-depth experience at Fallingwater. During the three-day stay, participants have the opportunity to explore the house, its history and the surrounding Bear Run Nature Reserve with the help of the site’s senior guides, curators and directors.

Guests from Insight/Onsite and staff enjoy a dinner at Fallingwater.
Guests from Insight/Onsite and staff enjoy a dinner at Fallingwater.

The residency programs introduced 31 students and teachers to learning through architecture in 2012. In addition, the Gap-Year program, an opportunity for high school graduates who are interested in architecture but have not enrolled in college yet, successfully hosted 10 participants. Four of them went on to apply to five-year architectural programs.

Chatham University completed its second studio, using Fallingwater as a teaching tool. Students visited the site several times to tour, sketch and present their projects.

The stewards of Fallingwater balance a commitment to outreach with a commitment to the preservation of the house. The organization adheres to the highest preservation standards for the house, its furniture and collections; its 2012 activities included several projects to maintain the integrity of the masterwork.

The preservation of the house continued with the the failing trellis beam near the main entrance, the continuation of the multi-year project to replace Fallingwater’s failing window glass and restoration of the surrounding steel sash.

A bust by Richmond Barthé sits near windows that 
Fallingwater staff are working to restore.
A bust by Richmond Barthé sits near windows that Fallingwater staff are working to restore.

Fallingwater and areas surrounding the house were made more accessible for all visitors. Visitors with mobility concerns now have access to a new ADA-accessible shuttle that runs between the house and the Visitors’ Center. Additionally, staff constructed a trail that provides all visitors with the opportunity to view Fallingwater from the Birdseye Overlook.

Fallingwater restored a small farmhouse on the Bear Run reserve to provide housing for interns.