Since its public debut over 80 years ago, people from around the world have visited and experienced Fallingwater and its surrounding landscape. But not many people know that the story of Fallingwater is more than 100 years in the making. Learn more about the chronology of events that resulted in Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, Fallingwater.
Frank Lincoln Wright is born on June 8 in Richland Center, Wis., to William Carey Wright (1825-1904), an itinerant music teacher, composer, and Baptist minister, and Anna Lloyd Jones (1838-1923), a school teacher. Following his parents’ divorce in 1885, Frank changed his middle name to Lloyd to honor his mother’s family.
Jacob Kaufmann opens a small store with brother Isaac Kaufmann (1851-1921), “J. Kaufmann and Brother" (17’ x 28’) at 1916 Carson Street in Pittsburgh, Pa., pooling together $1,500. Brothers Morris Kaufmann (1858-1917) and Henry Kaufmann (1860-1955) soon follow from Viernheim, Germany. The brothers were primarily merchant tailors with a store for men and boys only.
Anna Wright visits the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and returns home with Froebel Gifts, a series of innovative educational toys developed by German educator Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel. The system of guided instructional play formed the basis of “kindergarten” and included geometrically shaped blocks, tiles, spheres, and grids. Frank Lloyd Wright would write fondly of the gifts in his autobiography and later scholars have drawn connections between Froebel Gifts and his architectural designs.
J. Kaufmann and Brother moves to Fifth Avenue and Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh, and is renamed “Kaufmann Brothers," boasting a hydraulic elevator and sales force of 75.
Edgar Jonas "E.J." Kaufmann is born on November 1, the son of Morris Kaufmann and Betty Wolf (1861-1942), in Pittsburgh. E.J. later attends Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh.
Frank Lloyd Wright enrolls as a special student in engineering at the University of Wisconsin, studying under civil engineer Allan Darst Conover (1854-1929) for two semesters.
Wright leaves for Chicago, finding employment in the office of Joseph Lyman Silsbee (1848-1913), a respected designer in the Victorian Gothic and Queen Anne styles. After less than a year, Wright joins the firm of Adler & Sullivan, headed by Dankmar Adler (1844-1900) and Louis Henry Sullivan (1856-1924). Wright advances quickly to head draftsman with design responsibilities for residences, and refers to Sullivan as his Liebermeister, or dear master, and is essentially the only architect whose work he praised.
Lillian Sarah Kaufmann (she later changes her name to Liliane) is born on March 6 in Pittsburgh, the daughter of Isaac and Emma Kaufmann. Edgar Kaufmann's future wife is also his first cousin.
Wright builds a shingle-style house in Oak Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago for he and his wife, Catherine (Kitty) Lee Tobin (1871-1959). It is marked for its crisp triangular gable punctuated with a grouping of art glass windows. The Wrights raise their six children here: Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. (1890-1978; known as Lloyd), John Lloyd Wright (1892-1972), Catherine Dorothy Wright (1894-1979), David Samuel Wright (1895-1997), Frances Lloyd Wright (1898-1959), and Robert Llewellyn Wright (1903-1986; known as Llewellyn).
A group of Pittsburgh Masons buys more than 135 acres from Joseph Soisson, Zacariah Moon and a few other settlers in Bear Run, Pa., constructing the “Masonic Country Club.”
Frank Lloyd Wright leaves Adler & Sullivan and opens his own practice in Chicago.
Wright adds a drafting studio and visitor reception room to his Oak Park home.
Edgar Kaufmann enters the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., as a member of the class of 1906. He leaves after the end of his freshman year in 1903.
Edgar Kaufmann travels to Europe to learn storekeeping at the Karstadt store in Hamburg and at Galeries Lafayette in Paris.
The Masonic Country Club property is sold at a sheriff’s auction (June), again in October 1907, and once more in March 1909 when another Masonic body from Pittsburgh, the Syria Improvement Association, acquired the camp.
Edgar Kaufmann returns to Pittsburgh and works in the shipping department of Kaufmann’s Department Store (works 18 months).
Edgar Kaufmann marries Lillian Sarah Kaufmann, his first cousin, on June 22 at the St. Regis Hotel in New York. The Kaufmanns honeymooned in the White Mountains of New England for six weeks.
Edgar placed in charge of all outside warehouses and receiving at Kaufmann’s (six months), then took up the systematizing of the various parts of the store.
Edgar and Liliane move into a house at 5423 Darlington Road in Pittsburgh.
Edgar discovers Bear Run.
Syria Country Club established; more than a dozen buildings: six cottages, various outbuildings, a dance pavilion, and clubhouse.
Frank Lloyd Wright absconds to Europe with Mamah Borthwick Cheney (1869-1914), a married Oak Park client for whose family he designs a house in 1903. A cultured woman who earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Michigan, Cheney began a romantic relationship with Wright as early as 1905, believing that as educated, creative individuals they should not be held to the same moral codes as the rest of society. Their ensuing lack of discretion scandalized the Oak Park community and even made headlines in Chicago newspapers.
Edgar J. Kaufmann jr. is born on April 9 in Pittsburgh.
Isaac, Morris and Henry ask Edgar to take over the store (Isaac and Henry have no sons; Morris other son, Oliver, is 12), now employing 3,000. Edgar becomes Assistant Superintendent and system man at Kaufmann’s, gradually taking on more responsibilities.
Ernst Wasmuth publishes "Ausgeführte Bauten und Entwürfe von Frank Lloyd Wright (Executed Buildings and Studies by Frank Lloyd Wright)," a collection of one hundred lithographs of Wright’s work. The so-called “Wasmuth Portfolio” introduced Frank Lloyd Wright to Europe and influenced a generation of modern architects.
Frank Lloyd Wright returns from Europe with Mamah Cheney and begins building Taliesin near Spring Green, Wis., on land settled by his maternal family, the Lloyd Joneses. The home would survive tragedy (the death of Cheney and her children by arson in 1914) to remain his summer home throughout his life. Named for the Welsh bard whose name means “shining brow,” Wright boasted that Taliesin was “of the hill” not set upon it. An expression of Wright’s principles of organic architecture, the building plan followed the topography of the site, emphasized by shallow-pitched roofs. Masonry was local limestone, cut and placed irregularly to evoke natural rock formations, and sand for plaster came from the nearby Wisconsin River. Wright and Cheney move in at the end of December.
Edgar oversees all of non-selling departments and system at Kaufmann’s.
Kaufmann’s Department Store opens an enlarged 12-story emporium, designed by the Pittsburgh architectural firm Janssen and Cocken. Morris and Edgar incorporate the business. Morris buys Henry’s shares. E.J. buys Isaac’s to give him controlling interest in the store and make him President. Net sales are $10 million.
Edgar serves in military as lieutenant “over here.”
The “Kaufmann’s Summer Club” is established near Bear Run in the Laurel Highlands of southwest Pennsylvania. Edgar Kaufmann secures a three-year lease on the property for the store’s female employees.
Paul Mayén is born in May in La Linea de la Concepción, Spain.
Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann build a small, prefabricated “Genesee" model Redi-cut cabin from the Aladdin Company of Bay City, Mich., on the Bear Run property, naming it “The Hang Over.” The modest wood building, without heat, electricity, or running water is noticeably more sparse than nearby facilities for employees.
Frank Lloyd Wright marries Miriam Noel (1869-1930) on November 23 in Spring Green, Wis., after securing an uncontested divorce from Catherine Wright the previous year.
Benno Jannsen (1874-1964) designs “La Torelle” for E.J. and Liliane Kaufmann in the fashionable Pittsburgh suburb of Fox Chapel. The eighteen-room, two-story manor house is notable for its turreted entrance and French Norman style of architecture, and at a cost of $250,000 is the most expensive house in the borough. The first house commissioned by the Kaufmanns, they will occupy it until 1940 when they move into the William Penn Hotel, also designed by Jannsen design.
Frank Lloyd Wright meets Olgivanna Lazovich Hinzenberg (1898-1985), a dancer from Monetenegro. Immediately smitten, he invites her to move to Taliesin. This relationship was also scandalous because, in addition to their thirty-one year age difference, Wright was still married (though soon separated) to Miriam Noel, and Olgivanna to architect Vlademar Hinzenberg.
Iovanna Lloyd Wright is born on December 3 in Chicago to Wright and Olgivanna Hinzenberg. Wright sells the Oak Park home and studio and begins divorce proceedings with Miriam Noel, which would be finalized in August 1927.
A second major fire at Taliesin occurs, caused by faulty wiring. Again, Wright rebuilds.
Kaufmann’s Department Store employees’ association buys the 1,600 acres at Bear Run.
Kaufmann’s now has business offices in 27 foreign cities.
Frank Lloyd Wright and Olgivanna Hinzenberg marry on August 25 in La Jolla, Calif.
Edgar Kaufmann makes the first Pittsburgh to Paris transatlantic telephone call to Kaufmann’s Department Store’s Paris office to discuss the description of a gown in an upcoming fashion show.
Kaufmann’s expansion by Janssen and Cocken also updates to first floor in the art modern style.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is founded.
Wright publishes "An Autobiography." The anecdotal, poorly edited and not entirely accurate autobiography is nonetheless a dramatic account of Wright’s life story and a compelling argument for organic architecture. A number of early Taliesin apprentices, including Edgar Kaufmann, jr., were persuaded by the book to study with Wright.
Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship is established in Spring Green, Wis. with thirty-five apprentices and assistants. His plan, orchestrated with Olgivanna Wright, was to take on apprentices in a communal architecture, arts and spiritual community while charging them a rather considerable $550 for tuition. Despite the critics, Wright was able to attract a skilled cadre of young architects and artists, some of whom became longstanding associates. Within a few years, his practice went through one of the most remarkable resurgences in architectural history, in which Fallingwater was a key project.
Department of Architecture established at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), naming Philip Johnson chairman.
"Modern Architecture: International Exhibition" shown at MoMA, alters the way Americans perceive architecture.
With the rise of Nazism, Edgar, jr. returns to the United States from a period of studying painting in Venice, Florence and London.
Edgar seeks Civilian Conservation Corps status for Bear Run property. When that fails, he buys the land from the Kaufmann’s Store Employees Association in Liliane’s name (July).
Liliane Kaufmann reinvents Kaufmann’s Department Store’s 11th floor as the Vendôme Shops, named for the elegant Place Vendôme in Paris, home to the city’s most elegant fashion designers. Half of the floor was dedicated to designer fashions from New York City and Europe, and the other half to a mix of antiques, furniture, paintings, intricate figurines, crystal centerpieces and jeweled boxes.
After a recommendation by a friend to read Wright’s autobiography, Edgar jr. travels to Wisconsin for an interview with Wright on September 27. He begins apprenticeship at Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship in Spring Green, Wis., on October 15. Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann visit their son (November 16), shortly thereafter asking Wright to design a weekend house on the wooded property they owned surrounding a waterfall at Mill Run, Pa.
Wright visits Edgar Kaufmann in Pittsburgh to discuss the design of his office, and visits Bear Run for the first time (December 18).
Liliane Kaufmann is elected the President of Montifiore Hospital’s Board of Trustees. She holds the position until 1943.
Albert Einstein visits Pittsburgh in December to present a talk, “Equivalent of Mass and Energy,” before the American Association for the Advancement of Science at the Carnegie Technical Institute in Pittsburgh. Considered his first important one in the United States and in English, the speech delighted those in attendance who taught him the language.
Edgar jr. leaves the Taliesin Fellowship and returns to Pittsburgh.
Edgar jr. becomes Merchandise Manager for Home Furnishings at Kaufmann’s Department Store in Pittsburgh. He continues in this capacity until 1940.
Edgar Kaufmann commissions Frank Lloyd Wright to design a weekend house for his family near Bear Run.
Exhibition on 11th floor of Kaufmann’s Department Store, "New Homes for Old," sponsored by the Federal Housing Administration featured model for Broadacre City.
Department of Architecture is changed to Department of Architecture and Industrial Art, Philip L. Goodwin named chairman (1935-1940).
First working drawings of Fallingwater completed (January). Construction of Fallingwater begins (April); foundations completed (July); living room cantilever ready to pour (August).
Construction begins on Wright’s design for Edgar Kaufmann’s corner office on the tenth floor of Kaufmann’s Department Store. A one-room interior executed primarily of cypress wood, the office included louvered windows and built-in storage cabinets designed on a two-foot-square module. The focal point was an abstract mural formed of six layers of cypress in a geometric design, based on 60- and 120-degree shapes. Taliesin apprentice Manuel Sandoval constructed the mural and installed the office.
John McAndrew, Curator of Architecture and Industrial Art at MoMA, writes asking to see Fallingwater.
Architectural Forum offers to publish Wright’s new work; Bill Hedrich photographs Fallingwater (November).
Fallingwater's construction is completed. The Kaufmanns move in (December).
"A New House by Frank Lloyd Wright" exhibition is installed in the Time-Life Building (14 East 49th Street in New York), the temporary location of the Museum of Modern Art (January 25 to March 6). Curated by John McAndrew, Curator of Architecture and Industrial Art. Exhibition traveled for two years as part of the Museum’s Department of Circulating Exhibitions.
Edgar jr. begins work at MoMA part-time (until 1940).
Fallingwater featured in Architectural Forum (January), Time (January 17) and Life (January 17), as well as hundreds of newspapers and periodicals worldwide.
Fallingwater guest house is completed.
Albert Einstein returns to western Pennsylvania for a conference with Jewish leaders on how to help protect Jews still trapped in Germany. Given the somber nature of the visit, there were no press conferences or public lectures on that trip. Already in the Pittsburgh area, the Kaufmann family invited him to Fallingwater.
"Frank Lloyd Wright: American Architect" exhibition opens at MoMA.
Edgar jr. ends work at Kaufmann’s; begins working full-time at MoMA (until 1955, less 1942-1945 for war service).
Kaufmanns sell La Torelle and take an apartment in the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh.
MoMA splits Department of Architecture and Industrial Design (until 1949). Chairs/Directors of each are:
Philip L. Goodwin, Chairman, 1940-1948
Janet Henrich, Director, 1941-1942
Elizabeth B. Mock, Director, 1942-1946
Eliot F. Noyes, Director, 1940-1945
Edgar J. Kaufmann, jr, Director (1946-1948)
Edgar jr. and Liliane present “Below the Rio Grande,” an exhibition of Mexican antiques and folk art presented at Kaufmann’s. Two paintings that form the exhibition will later hang at Fallingwater.
Edgar jr. inducted into military in Miami Beach, Fla., as intelligence officer with USAAF (September 1).
Liliane steps down as President of Montifiore Hospital, begins volunteering at Mercy Hospital (until her death).
Edgar Kaufmann receives an honorary doctorate of science from the University of Pittsburgh.
Edgar jr. begins overseas service in New Guinea, Australia and the Philippines (May 1, 1943 to August 17, 1945).
Edgar jr. discharged from military at Indiantown Gap, Pa., with rank of Captain (November 24).
Edgar jr. is hired as curator in industrial design at the Museum of Modern Art (March 1). He then becomes director until 1948.
Kaufmann’s Department Store merges with the St. Louis-based May Company, the year of its 75th anniversary. Edgar remains President of Kaufmann’s and a VP of May Company.
“What is Modern Design?” conference and bulletin authored by Edgar Kaufmann, jr.
Edgar jr. serves as Competition Director of the MoMA Museum Design Project, Inc. and MoMA Art Furniture Competition.
Edgar jr. is named director of MoMA’s International Competition for Low Cost Furniture, which saw nearly 3,000 entries from 31 countries.
Edgar jr. is named Consultant and Director of the Good Design project (1950-1955), a series of three shows a year examining the design of household objects and furnishings. Nine of the Good Design shows were organized for the Department of Circulating Exhibitions, seen by thousands of Americans in fifty venues, including banks, Elks Lodges, art societies, department stores and museums throughout the country.
Merger of MoMA’s Departments of Architecture and Industrial Design, Philip Johnson, named Director (1949-1954). Edgar jr. becomes Research Associate and Consultant in Industrial Design.
Edgar jr. publishes "What is Modern Design?"
Prize Designs for Modern Furniture, exhibition of prize-winning designs form international competition, and publication by Edgar Kaufmann, jr.
“How Good Is Good Design?” discussion moderated by Edgar jr. at MoMA.
Liliane Kaufmann dies in Pittsburgh on September 7.
Edgar jr. publishes "Taliesin Drawings."
“Good Design Could Be Better” discussion moderated by Edgar jr. at MoMA
Edgar jr. publishes "What is Modern Interior Design?"
“Is Ornament Good Design?” discussion moderated by Edgar jr. at MoMA.
Montifiore Hospital dedicates new student nursing school and residence in memory of Liliane Kaufmann.
Edgar Kaufmann, Sr. marries Grace A. Stoops (September 4).
Edgar jr. plans and assembles exhibition "Textiles and Jewelry from India" at MoMA (1954-55), his last exhibition with MoMA.
Edgar jr. resigns from Museum of Modern Art, ending a 18-year association with the museum (February 11).
Edgar J. Kaufmann, Sr. dies in Palm Springs, Calif. (April 15). He leaves an estate of $10,265,687, most of which goes to charity.
Edgar jr. becomes advisor to Department of Design and Industry, Parson’s School of Design in New York (until 1956).
Edgar jr. publishes “An American Architecture,” an anthology of Frank Lloyd Wright’s writings.
“Textiles and Ornamental Arts of India” by Monroe Wheeler; organized by Edgar jr .
Edgar jr. is Bemis Lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (spring term) on product design.
Edgar jr. directs centennial exhibition of Louis Sullivan’s architecture (tours country).
Edgar jr. and Paul Mayén assist I.N. and Bernardine Hagan in furnishing Kentuck Knob, a house close to Fallingwater also designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Edgar jr.curates exhibition at the Brooklyn Art Museum.
Edgar jr.lectures on modern consumer goods at the Graduate School of Retail Research, University of Pittsburgh (1958-59; 1959-60).
Frank Lloyd Wright dies in Phoenix, Ariz. on April 9.
Edgar jr. publishes “Drawings for a Living Architecture”; Paul Mayén designs the book jacket.
Edgar jr. is co-curator of exhibition “The Arts of Denmark” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Edgar jr. publishes “Frank Lloyd Wright: Writings and Buildings.”
Grace Kaufmann dies on January 25. She leaves an estate valued at $251,494, most of it going to her father, Harvey Stoops, of Pleasant Hills, Pa.
Kaufmann’s opens first suburban store, Monroeville, Pa.
Edgar jr. deeds Fallingwater and surrounding 1,500 acres to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy as “The Kaufmann Conservation on Bear Run, a Memorial to Edgar J. and Liliane S. Kaufmann” along with a $500,000 endowment to care for the house (October 29).
"Fallingwater: A Frank Lloyd Wright House Revisited" exhibition opens at MoMA, curated by Arthur Drexler, Director of Architecture. Photographs by Ezra Stoller (18 color images). Drexler compares Fallingwater to Chartres Cathedral and the Parthenon: “If you had to reduce the history of architecture to ten images, you could not omit this house.”
Edgar jr. becomes adjunct professor of Architecture and Art History at Columbia University.
Fallingwater opens for public tours; admittance by advance reservations through the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy office in Pittsburgh. Annual visitation is 29,792.
Kaufmann dairy barn converts to Bear Run Nature Education Center with extensive nature education program conducted by Dr. John Hug who lived on one of the houses on the property. Hug ran the nature center five days per week and also expanded the Conservancy’s nature education program with advice to schools and curriculum preparation.
Edgar jr. curates exhibition "The Rise of an American Architecture" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, setting a new standard with television monitors showing buildings being demolished as a bell tolled. Exhibition runs May to October 3, 1970.
The former tenth floor corner office of Edgar Kaufmann, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright , is donated to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, where is becomes their first twentieth-century period room.
Donald Hoffman publishes "Fallingwater: The House and Its History," with an introduction by Edgar jr.
Fallingwater is designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior on May 11.
Edgar Kaufmann jr. and the Edgar J. Kaufmann Charitable Foundation fund the construction of a visitors pavilion, designed by Paul Mayen. The pavilion burned and was rebuilt by 1981.
Edgar jr. becomes more involved in Fallingwater operations overall through art commissions. He returns some objects to the house and removes others.
"Alvar Aalto: Furniture and Glass" symposium is organized by Edgar jr. at the Institute for International Education at United National Plaza [Stuart Were, Goran Schidt, and Christopher Wilk] and discussion including Harmon Goldstone and Paul David Pearson (October 26).
Lynda Waggoner engaged to consult on collections and give Fallingwater a more lived-in quality.
Jack Boucher photographs Fallingwater for the Historic American Buildings Survey.
Friends of Fallingwater formed.
Fallingwater celebrates its 50th anniversary with a private train bringing guests from Pittsburgh to Ohiopyle.
Edgar jr. publishes "Fallingwater: A Frank Lloyd Wright Country House."
Visitation breaks six figures at 106,200 .
Edgar Kaufmann, jr. dies in New York (July); on the same day, Fallingwater experiences largest flood since 1956. His ashes are scattered at Fallingwater.
Robert Silman Associates engaged to address deflection of cantilevered terraces.
Paul Mayen dies (November 3), ashes are scattered at Fallingwater.
Fallingwater named a Commonwealth Treasure by Governor Tom Ridge and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
Restoration team led by Robert Silman Associates installs post tensioned high-strength steel cables beneath the floors and alongside three of the four beams of Fallingwater’s main cantilever, as well as several of the east-west joists. The process works much like a suspension bridge in which the cables are anchored at either end of the expanse and following a bent path (i.e., rising in the middle), structurally support the bridge deck.
As a model of sustainability, a state-of-the-art, closed-loop, zero-discharge waste water treatment facility is installed. The system, designed and installed by CH2MHill, treats waste water that is then recycled for other uses on the property such as non-potable water and drip irrigation.
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson completed renovations of the former dairy barn purchased by the Kaufmanns in the 1940s into offices, meeting and event space. The Barn at Fallingwater receives a Silver LEED certification and wins a number of AIA local and national awards including one of the Top Ten Green Projects, American Institute of Architects, Committee on the Environment.
Painter Felix de la Concha becomes the second artist-in-residence at Fallingwater. The 18-month residency resulted in nearly 50 paintings, which capture Fallingwater at various times of day and in all seasons. From the collection an exhibition entitled “Fallingwater en Perspectiva” was organized and toured four venues in the United States.
Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) drawings completed by students of the College of Architecture at Kent State University. These are held at the Library of Congress and available online through their website.
Fallingwater celebrates its 75th anniversary with publication of “Fallingwater;” an international symposium, “Private Domains/Public Displays: The Modern House Interpreted,” on presenting the modern house museum; a gala celebration, which included a light and sound show projected on the building by Luftwerk; and a concluding exhibition at Concept Gallery of the paintings of Felix de la Concha.
Construction of 700-foot ADA-accessible pathway completed, connecting parking lot to birds-eye view of Fallingwater.
Cork floor of servants quarter’s bathroom replaced and relaid in patchwork pattern similar to original.
High Meadow residential facility designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, opens to rave reviews and received AIA Pennsylvania Silver Medal.
Architectural Preservation Studio conducts a laser scan of the exterior of the main house and guest house.
Fallingwater sees its highest attendance with 181,082 visiting the site.
On July 10, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee inscribed Fallingwater and seven other Frank Lloyd Wright-designed sites to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The serial inscription, The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, represents the first modern architecture designations in the US.
On March 15, Fallingwater temporarily closed due to COVID-19, the global coronavirus pandemic. The site was reopened on June 13 for exterior guided and self-guided tours, and Fallingwater operated in this capacity through November 30. From then, tours reduced to self-guided exterior experiences until December 14, after which we closed the site for the remainder of the calendar year. For this reason, year-end visitation was 42,795, a steep reduction from 171,056 in 2019.