BUFFALO, New York – Western Pennsylvania and Western New York have nearly a dozen of Frank Lloyd Wright’s creations that are open for touring, from Fallingwater to the Fontana Boathouse.
The locations are included in a new do-it-yourself tour dubbed the Great Wright Road Trip, which winds 300 miles from the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania south of Pittsburgh to Buffalo, NY
The whole tour can be done in just two or three days – or take your time and spend a week. See it all at once or in several trips.
Here is a brief description of the destinations included on the trail. Note: We have also included three properties designed by Wright in Ohio that are open to the public.
Waterfall, Mill Run, Pennsylvania
Completed in 1939, this house is considered Wright’s iconic achievement, the ultimate example of organic architecture. The home, built for Pittsburgh department store moguls Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann, sits atop a waterfall in the Laurel Highlands area of western Pennsylvania. For more information on tours: chutewater.org
Kentuck Knob, Dunbar, Pennsylvania
Four miles from Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob was built in 1956 for IN and Bernardine Hagan, who were friends of the Kaufmanns and frequent visitors to Fallingwater. They asked Wright to design a house on top of a hill overlooking the valley of the Youghiogheny River. Instead of placing the house on top of the hill, Wright built it inside. The house is known for its hexagonal kitchen and skylights, copper roof, and magnificent views. Information: kentuckknob.com
Polymath Park, Acme, Pennsylvania
Polymath Park, about 20 miles north of Fallingwater, has four houses, two of which were designed by Wright: the Duncan House, originally built in 1957 in Lisle, Illinois; and the Lindholm House, built in 1952 in Cloquet, Minnesota. Both have been relocated to this location in recent years.
The other two houses were designed by Wright’s apprentice Peter Berndston. All are available for tours and overnight stays. Information: franklloydwrightovernight.net
San Francisco Office, Erie, Pennsylvania
The Erie County Historical Society-Hagen History Center recently acquired and reassembled Wright’s office in San Francisco, used by Wright in the 1950s. Among the creations he worked on here: the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Civic Marin County Center (California). Information: eriehistory.org
Read more: Stroll through Frank Lloyd Wright’s newly assembled San Francisco office in Erie, PA.
Darwin Martin House, Buffalo, New York
Built from 1903 to 1905, the Darwin Martin House complex is considered one of Wright’s most important projects during the Prairie School era, characterized by horizontal lines, flat roofs, and integration into the landscape. Built for a Larkin Soap Co. executive, the property includes a 15,000 square foot main house, veranda, shed and smaller residence. A $ 50 million restoration project recently returned the property to its 1907 glory. Information: darwinmartinhouse.org
Graycliff Estate, Derby, New York
Wright designed a second home for Darwin and Isabelle Martin, a summer vacation home 20 miles south of Buffalo on a bluff overlooking Lake Erie. The 8.5-acre property includes Isabelle R. Martin’s main house, as well as the Foster house, originally designed as a garage and later converted into a summer residence for the Martins’ daughter and her family. The Graycliff Conservancy recently completed an $ 8.2 million restoration of the property. Information: experiencegraycliff.org
Blue Sky Mausoleum, Buffalo
Designed for Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery, Blue Sky was the last of four Wright projects commissioned by Darwin Martin, intended to be his family’s final resting place. However, soon after the plans for the mausoleum were completed, Martin lost his fortune and the project was scrapped. He was resuscitated in the 1990s by the late Fred Whaley Jr., then president of Forest Lawn. Completed in 2004, the design consists of a flight of gently sloping steps that provide 24 burial crypts, with a white granite monolith at the top. It is one of three models of cemetery structures that Wright is known to have created. Information: blueskymausoleum.com
Fontana Boathouse, Buffalo
Another recent Wright creation in Buffalo, the Fontana Boathouse was built in 2007 using Wright plans from 1905 for a boathouse at the University of Wisconsin that was never completed. The first floor is used as a boathouse, while the second floor has a club, changing rooms and balconies facing east and west. The Boathouse is just south of the Peace Bridge over the Black Rock Canal and the Niagara River. Information: wrightsboathouse.org
Gas station, Buffalo
In 1927 Wright was commissioned to design a gas station for downtown Buffalo, which was never built. Almost nine decades later, in 2014, the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum opened a 1,600 square foot two-story gas station built to Wright’s specifications. It features a second-floor observation room with a fireplace, toilet, copper roof, and authentic Tydol Oil panels. Information: pierce-arrow.com
Three Wright properties in Ohio are not part of the Great Wright Road Trip, but they are also worth a visit:
Westcott House, Springfield
Among Wright’s early works, the Westcott House in Springfield was designed for Burton and Orpha Westcott and built in 1908. The house is an example of Wright’s early Prairie style, which is distinguished by its low pitched roof, plan of open floor and its strong horizontal lines. Then (and still today), the house stands in stark contrast to the neighborhood’s Victorian-era mansions, which are part of Springfield’s Millionaire Row. Information: westcotthouse.org
Weltzheimer / Johnson House, Oberlin
Owned by Oberlin College, the Weltzheimer / Johnson house is an example of Wright’s later design style, dubbed Usonian (an alternative to American, as in US-onian). These homes were more modest, designed for post-WWII middle-class America, but with telltale Wright features including flat roofs, cantilevered overhangs, and natural light. A striking feature here: hundreds of stained croquet balls that form the jagged ornamentation of the roof. Information: amam.oberlin.edu/flw-house
Louis Penfield House, Willoughby Hills
Another example of Wright’s Usonian style, the Penfield House is not open to visitors. But this is one of the few Wright models where you can stay overnight. The house was built in 1955 for Louis Penfield, an artist and art teacher and an acquaintance of Wright. The current owner is Paul Penfield, son of Louis Penfield, who has rented the house to architecture enthusiasts since 2003. Information: penfieldhouse.com