Last Updated on September 25, 2020 by Jeremy
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When it comes to Frank Lloyd Wright in the Laurel Highlands, you likely know of Fallingwater. You've probably also heard of Kentuck Knob just a few miles away. But did you know that there is a third site containing the acclaimed architect's work?
This location is Polymath Park- home to two Frank Lloyd Wright houses and two more built by his student, Peter Berndtson.
But the Wright houses here are rather unique- the two houses were completely relocated to the park in the last few decades!
Polymath Park is a Frank Lloyd Wright Oasis
The history of Polymath Park is almost as fascinating as the tours of the buildings themselves.
The owners of the property purchased what is now Treetops restaurant in the early 2000s, and just a few years later were able to purchase the Balter and Blum houses nearby that were designed by Berndston (originally to be part of a Usonian neighborhood, but the two owners decided to keep their vast properties private).
In the process of restoring the houses for tours and overnight stays, the owners got the opportunity to be part of the relocation of The Duncan House- a Wright designed Usonian home that was being moved from Illinois to Johnstown, PA. The original investors backed out, the owners of Polymath Park stepped in, and the rest is history.
Since then the park was able to rescue another Wright house, the Mantyla House, which was relocated and opened for tours in early 2019!
A Tour of Polymath Park is a Must
Polymath Park offers numerous house tours, but the standard visits three of the four houses on the property and lasts approximately 90 minutes.
During my tour, I was able to visit The Balter House (designed on-site by Berndtson for the Balter family in 1964), The Duncan House (designed by Wright for the Duncan family in 1957 and moved to Polymath Park in 2007), and The Mantyla House (designed by Wright for the Lindholm family in 1952 and opened at Polymath Park in 2019). The fourth house, The Blum House, was also designed by Berndtson but was not open for tours during my visit.
What is interesting about the Wright homes, such as The Duncan House, is that they are part of his prefab Usonian blueprint designs offered later in his career. Rather than being fully customizable, like Fallingwater or Kentuck Knob, these were selected a la carte via a catalog, and those who wished to purchase would simply send their selections, a check, and a topography map to Wright to finalize the design.
It is a bit odd to say, but you do get the feeling in the Wright houses that they are meant to be the Usonian home for the modern 1950s and 60s neighborhood. The fact that these were dismantled, shipped across country, and re-assembled piece-by-piece at Polymath Park makes it all the more impressive.
The Balter House carries on this legacy with many variations but an overall feel that you could expect to come from an architect who studied under Wright. Having this third house tour really helps bring the entire park together to get a grander feel of the architect's vast legacy.
After having taken all the tours, it is also interesting to see places where Wright would bend his own rules regarding storage and clutter in an effort to make his houses friendly for the masses. With some of these minor adjustments, I even caught myself saying I could live in a Wright home like one of these- and that is kind of a big deal!
While I won't be able to afford a Frank Lloyd Wright house any time soon, Polymath Park offers the next best alternative- overnight stays!
Overnights, Dining, and More
In what is perhaps the most unique aspect of Polymath Park (and one we've sadly yet to enjoy), is that the houses are available to rent for overnight stays.
So if you are a true Wright fan, this is the ultimate experience to check out his architecture beyond quick tours in each of the buildings. We can only imagine what an overnight here would be, quite literally, like living in a moment of history all while surrounded by the beauty of the Laurel Highlands. (Although it is worth noting that for multi-night reservations house tours may still go on during the day.)
Going further, Polymath Park is also home to an acclaimed restaurant, Treetops, which features Wright-esque designs for those who want to continue their experience at the property as well.
Whether you visit for a house tour, an overnight stay, a meal at Treetops, or all of the above, a trip to Polymath Park is a must in order to complete the Frank Lloyd Wright experience in the Laurel Highlands!
Polymath Park is located at 187 Evergreen Lane in Acme, PA. The park maintains seasonal hours with a short closure in winter. Children under 9 years old are not allowed. I was a guest of the Laurel Highlands Visitor Bureau for this review. As always, all opinions are my own.
Looking for accommodations in the Laurel Highlands? Check out some great options on Airbnb!