An Unexpected Find in Western PA

I love it when I stumble across access in a place where I wasn’t expecting much. Such was the case yesterday when we were checking out a few of the Frank Lloyd Wright sites in Western PA. To be honest, it was a down day for us (we need one every now and again) and I decided to take Charles to Fallingwater. We both love Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and have visited many of his sites, but Charles had never been to Fallingwater, one of Wright’s most famous commissions. I visited it some 20 years ago and I knew it wasn’t accessible, so unless things had drastically changed, I knew it would be something I couldn’t cover.

Unfortunately things haven’t changed – you still have to be able to climb 100 plus steps to do the tour; and you can’t even access the Visitors Center without scaling 8-10 steps. So it’s still totally out for wheelers and slow walkers.

But I did find another Wright site that was partially accessible, which considering how he designed homes, is pretty good. It’s a home called Kentuck Knob and it’s just a short drive from Fallingwater. At the time of my last visit it was a private home, so this one was totally new to me.

There is accessible parking near the Visitors Center and a large accessible stall in the detached brick restroom building. The Visitors Center has one step up, but they are remodeling and adding a caf?, and it looks like there will be level access through there.

And the people at the Visitors Center couldn’t be nicer. The home is located a short drive from the Visitors Center and once you buy your ticket you hop on the shuttle bus. Now, the shuttle bus isn’t accessible, but you can drive your private car to the top if you need wheelchair access. There are 3-4 steps up to the entrance of the home, but if you notify the staff in advance they will have a portable ramp in place for you.

OK, there’s not total access to this Usonian home, but you can see the huge living area, dining room and deck. The bedrooms are located down a 19-inch wide hallway, so it’s not at all doable for wheelchairs, but you can still hear the guide, and that’s a big part of the tour.

OK, it’s not perfect access, but it is a rare chance to get a glimpse inside a Wright home. I did a radio show a few weeks back about other accessible Frank Lloyd Wright structures, and I wish I would have known about Kentuck Knob at that time. Oh well, there’s always the possibility of a follow-up segment.

But like I said, it’s fun to discover unexpected access! It really made my day.