I had the chance to celebrate my librarian-hood recently at the annual Pennsylvania Library Association Conference. This year’s gathering was held in one of my favorite regions of this adopted state of mine – the Laurel Highlands, at Seven Springs Resort. In the three and a half days during which I wandered the halls and grounds of this skiing mecca, I saw none of the seven springs but did encounter many of the nearly 1,000 participants who presented or in some other way participated in this networking event of information specialists. And during down times, I had a chance to enjoy the beauty of the region of this Commonwealth.
The Laurel Highlands area is a true gem within the state, and beyond its allure for skiers and other outdoor aficionados, it is home to one of the most visited architectural masterpieces of the country – Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water. If you haven’t had chance to ever roam the grounds and rooms of this home, which once belonged to the Kaufmann family of department store fame, it really is worth the experience. Personally, though, I have a preference for another Wright home in the area – Kentuck Knob. This homestead built for the Hagan (ice cream) family, is often overlooked and passed by, as if it were the red-headed stepchild to Falling Water. But to me, it is the more livable of the two, with a spectacular view of the gentle slopes of the Allegheny Mountains.
I opted out of the librarian group tour of Falling Water, which was one of the conference’s off-time activities. I had visited Falling Water fairly recently, and didn’t feel the need for another tour. Instead , I drove myself to the site to escape the confines of the conference meeting rooms and to explore what I knew to be a great gift shop. As the owner of an Arts & Crafts era foursquare, I often fantasize my house decorated from head to toe in craftsman style furniture, wall hangings, and light fixtures a la Frank Lloyd Wright. The gift shop at Falling Water is where one can browse, fantasize, and if the wallet allows, purchase various items to fulfill your home decorating and book-shelf filling needs.
My dirty little secret is that I am a wannabe architect, but I was not graced with the math skills to have made that happen, and so what I end up doing is coveting houses from afar, or at least from a street or sidewalk’s distance. As I drove along route 381 to the Kaufmann homestead, I took in the views of the hills, fall foliage and the variety of homes which dotted the Laurel Highlands landscape. Double-wides sit adjacent to Falling Water mini-me’s, which neighbor A-frame cabins that sit just over the next hill from some beautifully appointed Pennsylvania limestone structures. I have a compulsion to judge each home, questioning ill-fitting additions or wrongly (to me) placed driveways and garages, and start to work out in my head what I might do if I was the homeowner, to set it to rights. I know, extremely presumptuous of me. But it’s a way to pass the time, and appease that inner Wright in me. (For those of you who share a similar obsession with architecture, be sure to check out CLP’s art and architecture resource page.
I made one purchase at the Falling Water gift shop, a book. It was hard to choose, being both a bibliophile and an amateur student of architecture. Clocks, coasters, umbrellas, dinnerware, holiday ornaments, neckties, mugs, pencils, key chains, puzzles, toys and books galore! I settled on was what my budget and current interests allowed for, The Most Beautiful House in the World by Witold Rybczynski. The author of this wonderful little book is well known on things architectural.
I took some time during the conference to become absorbed by Rybcynski’s ideas. Thanks to Mr. Rybcynski, I am knocked down a peg or two in my presumptuous ways, and reminded to appreciate every structure one might call home and that a wo/man’s home is her/his castle, no matter if it has a waterfall running through its living area or a creek running past its trailer hitch. On my way home from the conference, I looked at that same landscape I had traversed only days ago with a new lens of appreciation as I drove along the country roads and highways back to my own humble castle.
-Maria (Taliesin East) J.