Falling Water – one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces

While in western Pennsylvania, we toured the Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built home called Falling Water.  It is unique in that it was built OVER a cascading stream and it incorporated large natural boulders into the house.

The land was already owned by the Kaufmann family from nearby Pittsburgh.  They had been using it for several years as a vacation spot and knew of the area where the stream cascaded over rocks.  They usually camped and stayed very near that spot.

They commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build a more permanent and elegant vacation home.  Wright walked the area with the Kaufmann’s and envisioned a home that would incorporate a lot of natural materials from the area as well as provide lots of views of the stream and forest.

The Kaufmann’s expected to spend $20-30K on this vacation home, a large sum of money in 1935.  When they saw Wright’s design and plans, they knew this home would be very special.  When Wright said it would cost more they said ok.  It ended up costing over $150K!

The home consisted of a main house with 3 levels plus a staircase down from the primary level right to the stream at the top of the cascades along with a guest house.  It also included servants quarters for 4 servants and a carport that would hold 9 cars.  A caretaker and a gardener lived nearby fulltime.

Wright not only designed the house, he designed and built most of the furniture.

As you look at the photos below, each one has a description


Frank Lloyd Wright – the Martin House built in 1903-1907

While in Buffalo we visited one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous houses – the Darwin Martin house.  This is a private home built by Wright for the second most wealthy family in Buffalo in the 1903-1907 timeframe.

Frank Lloyd Wright was an organic architect – he didn’t just design a ‘house’, he designed a home, thinking about how the family lived, their personalities, how the light would enter a room at various times of the year, how a house would fit into the neighborhood, how the rooms flowed from one to another etc.  He also usually designed most of the furniture including where it should be placed.  He would design the landscape for a home as well.  He would even send a family paintings or knick-knacks long after the house was finished with instructions where it should be placed or hung (along with a bill!)

The Martin house was designed and built during the early part of Wright’s long career.  Darwin Martin was a V.P. of a large growing company in Buffalo, and Wright designed their corporate headquarters.  Martin asked him to design a complex of houses on a 1-1/2 acre corner parcel he owned in one of the nicer neighborhood of Buffalo.

The complex consisted of a 15,000ft main house with two stories plus a basement that included a ballroom and a covered but open walkway to a conservatory, a separate house for Martin’s sister and her family, a stable for 2 horses and rooms for the 2 stablemen that was attached to the conservatory, and a separate house for the 2 gardeners.  The Martins had 8 servants, the four house servants lived in the main house in separate bedrooms and separate dining room.

The house for Martin’s sister was built first.  Wright was given a budget of $4,500 but the cost when finished was over $12,000.  But, Martin was so impressed that he gave Wright an unlimited budget for the main house and stables (the tour guide did not tell us what the finished main house cost).  He did give Wright a firm budget for the gardeners house and it shows in the quality of materials…fewer mouldings, fewer art glass windows, etc.

Wright’s design included some very different ideas from the norm of the time.  The norm of the time was for narrow high houses, with separate rooms all walled in, few windows, and kitchens either in the basement or in a separate building.  This house is built on the horizontal (look at the pictures to see what I mean) with low roofline, long overhang, and the roman bricks on the exterior have deeply inset grout going horizontal but not vertical which draws the eye to the horizontal.  This is intended to make the house feel ‘grounded’ and part of the landscape.  This type of house was later known as the ‘prairie style’.

The entrance to the house is not real visible to the street.  Plus the staircase inside the house was not right inside the door as in many houses of that era.  This contributed to the sense of privacy both for the house itself (a travelling salesman can’t come knocking if he can’t find the front door) and the inside staircase separated the ‘public rooms’ from the more private space upstairs.

The rooms flowed together, the dining room, living room and library were actually one long room.  The spaces were defined by ceiling moulding.  The living room flowed into the large veranda with a double set of French doors with no threshold and the veranda was tiled in the same tile as the rest of the first floor, giving it a sense of the indoors flowing to the outdoors.  There was also a reception room (aka parlor) right inside the front door for any visitors to wait to be received.

Wright even paid attention to detail in the kitchen, which was on the main floor instead of in the basement as was the norm for the time – and it was laid out to be as useful and functional as possible with an eye to the stages of preparing food.  The icebox was right next to the prep table which was close to the prep sink.  The stove was in the middle and on the other side of the room, closest to the dining room was the table near the dishes to plate the food and get it to the dining room.  There was a definite workflow to the layout of the kitchen.  The main house had 6 bathrooms, which was very unique for the time.  Even large mansions usually had only one bathroom as an afterthought…and many of them at that time still utilized outhouses!

One of the most distinguishing features in the house is the art glass.  There are over 400 windows in the main house, rather than one or two windows in each room, the outside walls are MOSTLY windows. And, almost all the windows and doors in the house are art glass in the unique ‘Tree of Life’ pattern that was designed specifically for this house.

The house has had some hard times.  The Martin family occupied it until 1935, when Mr. Martin died  penniless (the crash in 1929 did it) and the family had to leave as they couldn’t maintain the house.  The house sat empty for 17 years without being heated in the wintertime so lots of damage occurred to the woodwork, windows, and glass tiles above the main fireplace.  It was then purchased and lots of renovations were done but not in keeping with the original design.  Also, the property was split up and sold separately so the other buildings were also changed and ‘upgraded’.

In 1995 a non-profit corporation was formed to purchase and restore the homes on the property.  It’s still a work in progress, so several of the rooms were unfurnished and in a state of repair.

We were not able to take pictures of the interior of the house. Jeff took lots of pictures of the outside and I found a couple of the interior on the internet to add to the set of pictures below.

All in all, this is a unique and beautiful home and property!

Chinese food in Akron, NY – yum!

While in the Akron area (30 minutes outside of Buffalo) we decided to try some Chinese food.  China King is a little storefront right in the heart of Akron.  It doesn’t look like much, but the food was definitely worth it!

Here’s my review on Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/akron-china-king-akron?hrid=_wwf_tG8CvyHQZgTh2TTyg

Niagara Falls is really as spectacular as they say!!

We’re near Buffalo, NY this week, and saw Niagara Falls a couple of days ago.  WOW!  I was not expecting it to be as fabulous as it really is!  Looking at it from the top of the falls was impressive, with the sound of the river, and the view over the falls (great rainbows!) but when we went DOWN to the bottom of the falls to take the “Maid of the Mist” boat ride and looked UP at the falls, I was REALLY impressed.  It’s like 10 stories high!!

The boat ride was fun – everybody was given a plastic slicker and boy did we need them!!  We got close enough to the horseshoe falls (on the Canadian side of the river) that we might as well have all been in the shower together.  Everyone got DRENCHED!  A few people didn’t want to put their slickers on and they were frantically pulling them on – HA too late!!

We opted to not walk UNDER the falls or go across the bridge to the Canadian side (need a passport to do that!) so we didn’t get the full experience, but we got enough!

Jeff took a great video which I uploaded to Youtube: http://youtu.be/T1kncH0eOCI.  And, we took pictures which are below.


Diamonds! Well, really very clear crystals…

Also close to Cooperstown is the Herkimer Diamond Mine.  They aren’t really diamonds, but are very clear quartz crystals that look sort of like diamonds.  In the rough they are often faceted and sparkly!

At the mine you pay for a day and are given a zip-loc bag and a small sledgehammer and pointed to the mine – a rock quarry!  You break rocks open and will sometimes find little black “pockets” in the rock that might contain the little crystals.  We found a few, shown in the pictures below.  You get to keep any that you find!

It’s not as easy as it looks.  First, you’re out in the middle of a field of sharp rocks, so walking around is difficult and then you have to squat or find a place to sit and a flat, larger rock to put your smaller rocks on so you can pound away at them!  There were lots of people doing just that!

While we were there, one person found a really nice crystal that was probably the size of a peanut.  WOW!  Ours are smaller, in one picture I superimposed a picture of a dime the correct size so you can get a sense of how small ours are.  But, we found them by breaking open rocks, so it was a very interesting morning!!

Here are pictures of the mine site and the ‘diamonds’ we found:



Howe Caverns near Cooperstown NY

While staying in Cooperstown, NY, we saw that there was a cave less than an hour away, so we decided to visit it.  We were a bit dismayed to see that it has very few formations and they aren’t that spectacular.  The cavern still has a river running through it and for much of its history the river was the major feature, which inhibited the growth of stalactites and stalagmites.

The tour of the cavern included a boat ride through part of the cave that still has water a few feet deep; while interesting there were NO formations to be seen while in the boat.

The best feature was an area called “The Winding Way” which indeed did wind around quite a bit in a narrow passageway, in some areas so narrow you had to turn sideways to get your shoulders through it.  Luckily for me (claustrophic!) it had a high ceiling so I was ok.

Here are pictures we took of the cavern:


Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY

We’re here in Cooperstown so of course we visited the Baseball Hall of Fame.  It’s a museum that encompasses 3 floors of a building, with part of one floor the actual “Hall of Fame”.

There’s lots of photos, memorabilia and information about baseball from the early days to the current season.  It was very interesting (more to Jeff and to me!) but because everything is behind glass, Jeff only took one photo of the front of the building.

Here’s a link to the Hall of Fame website: http://baseballhall.org/

Beaver Valley Campground in Cooperstown, NY

We came to Cooperstown, NY to see the Baseball Hall of Fame.  We are staying in a campground called Beaver Valley which is really nice!  It’s geared to baseball players who are here for a tournament either here at the campground (there’s a baseball diamond here!) or at the nearby “Dreams Fields” location.

There are lots of choices, tent sites, RV sites, and quite a few cabins.  Our site is in a wooded area that would be really nice in warm weather.  Unfortunately, the week we are here (mid-August!) it is cold and rainy.  Oh well!  They have some sites in a meadow, several walking trails, a pond and two laundry rooms.  They also have a playground for the kids and a pony lives here too!

Here’s my review on Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/cooperstown-beaver-valley-cabins-and-campsites-milford?hrid=ReM0kb9k1LnVROVJBbB8dg


Top of the Hill – a great BBQ place in Brattleboro, VT

While we were stuck in the motel in Brattleboro we ate most dinners in our room (freezer and microwave food) but we went out a few times.  The choices were limited in this small town, but we did go to one place that was excellent – called “Top of the Hill BBQ” as it was on a small bluff above the river that runs through town.  Great food out of a very small kitchen (a bit larger than a food truck!).

Here’s my review on Yelp:  http://www.yelp.com/biz/top-of-the-hill-grill-brattleboro?hrid=lzpgFuYZCGcXyb8sKlbjhQ