When it comes to Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces in southwest Pennsylvania, odds are good you know of the iconic Fallingwater house. But did you know that Wright also commissioned a house just a few miles down the roads for friends of the Kaufmann family?
This house is Kentuck Knob- a large, Usonian house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built for the Hagan family (of local ice cream fame).
Kentuck Knob is Worth the Visit in the Laurel Highlands
Kentuck Knob is a Usonian home designed by Frank Lloyd and gets its name from the hill (knob) that it is constructed on. In fact, the house was designed towards the end of Wright's life and was designed without him visiting the site at all.
Yes, you read that right.
Frank Lloyd Wright developed the plans for Kentuck Knob on photos and maps alone, and only briefly visited the construction site just once towards the end of the project (and never visited after it was completed).
We found this fact to be astounding as the house takes advantage of almost every aspect of the hilltop it is founded out from letting in the natural light, offering a stunning view, and being as much part of the hill as it is residing on top of it (a similar feeling to the house at Fallingwater to a lesser degree).
The inside of the house offers a further glimpse into how Wright incorporated these unique features, all with the idiosyncrasies we've come to love about the master (such as no 90 degree angles, narrow hallways, and other ornate features). Sadly, photos are not allowed inside so you will just have to visit to see those for yourself!
But perhaps the best part of this tour is that, while popular, Kentuck Knob often has fewer visitors than Fallingwater- meaning you likely have a much more intimate experience with the house while also being able to interact with your knowledgeable guide more as well!
The Hagan Family Made a Few Changes
One thing that is interesting about the tour of Kentuck Knob is that you can see instances where the Hagan family insisted upon features in the design that went against Wright's design wishes- a major no-no if there ever was one.
Some of these are subtle, like raising the ceiling height to accommodate taller friends and family as Wright wanted the overhangs to be fairly short. Others are a bit more overt like modifications to the kitchen space and moving ancillary utility equipment into the basement.
Somehow they got Wright to relent on several of the features, but I am certain they were also a bit happy that he never visited the site after completion for their further, post-completion modifications (such as the addition of a door into an attic crawlspace for storage- something Wright viewed as inviting clutter.)
This was just one of several little pieces of information we learned from the guide that helped paint the quirks of Wright and his persistence in designing the best houses possible for the location.
Be Sure to Take The Long Way Back
After your house tour, be sure to take the long way back to the admission's office / gift shop through a gorgeous walking path down the hillside.
Not only does this allow you to appreciate the beauty of the hill with various vantage points of the house and the region at large, you'll also be able to explore the outdoor art garden that was installed by the current owners- including vintage English phone booths, an actual piece of the Berlin wall, and so much more.
Overall, the hour-long tour of Kentuck Knob offers up another fascinating look at the work of one of the world's most famous architects. Couple it with a trip to nearby Fallingwater and you'll walk away with a great appreciation for those gorgeous masterpieces and the architect himself!
Kentuck Knob is located at 723 Kentuck Road in Chalkhill, PA just south of Fallingwater. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends. We were guests of the Laurel Highlands CVB and Kentuck Knob for this review. As always, all opinions are our own.
After your visit, be sure to check out Ohiopyle State Park just north of Kentuck Knob to continue enjoying your day out in nature!
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