Kaufmann Conservation on Bear Run
The Donation of Fallingwater
"In Fallingwater, Wright captured the perfect essence of our desire to live with nature: to dwell in a forested place and be at home in the natural world."
- Edgar Kaufmann, jr.
Edgar J. Kaufmann, Sr. and his family appreciated the serenity and beauty of the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania. They regularly traveled from Pittsburgh to Fayette County, Pa. to escape the smoky air from steel mills and fish, swim and boat the county’s creeks and streams. The Kaufmanns desired to build a house in this place where they often enjoyed nature.
In 1935, Frank Lloyd Wright designed their mountain retreat, Fallingwater, over the waterfall and creek the family had come to appreciate. The Kaufmanns became acquainted with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1951 when the Edgar J. Kaufmann Charitable Trust and the Conservancy were involved with the early acquisition of Ferncliff Peninsula, later to become the cornerstone of Ohiopyle State Park, also located in Fayette County, Pa.
Edgar J. Kaufmann, Sr. (1885-1955), Liliane S. Kaufmann (1889-1952), and their son, Edgar Kaufmann, jr. (1910-1989), owned, enjoyed and used Fallingwater until October 1963, when it was entrusted to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Edgar jr.’s comments made at the ceremony of transmission of Fallingwater to the Conservancy in the fall of 1963 best express the significance of Fallingwater for the Kaufmann family, the public, and the Conservancy.
Included with this generous gift were 1,543 acres surrounding Fallingwater and the wild and beautiful Bear Run. Bear Run Nature Reserve is an area of great natural diversity with stunning outcroppings of Pottsville sandstone. It has significant aquatic and animal life, such as native trout, numerous birds, black bears and bobcats. Edgar jr. commented on the importance of Fallingwater when he said,
"Such a place cannot be possessed. It is a work of man for man; not by a man for a man. Over the years since it was built, Fallingwater has grown ever more famous and admired, a textbook example of modern architecture at its best. By its very intensity it is a public resource, not a private indulgence."
- Edgar Kaufmann, jr.
Fallingwater came to the Conservancy with its buildings, collections and site intact. Following the death of Edgar jr, in 1989, The New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote, “[the gift] constituted one of the grandest and most meaningful gestures of architectural philanthropy of our age.”
The donation was received under a deed of trust that requires the Conservancy to preserve and maintain Fallingwater and its surroundings. In 2016, more than 180,000 people visited the house and grounds of Fallingwater, and Fallingwater’s total visitation has surpassed 5.5 million guests since it opened to the public in 1964.
The Bear Run Nature Reserve has grown too; it has more than tripled in size from its original 1,543 acres. Today, the reserve encompasses almost 70 percent of the Bear Run watershed in the reserve’s 5,080 acres. The reserve is a place where habitat is protected for native plants and animals and important ecological connections are sustained.