, West Virginia
February 6, 2001
The tour guide began as soon as the bus took off, telling us about the construction of the road and the beautiful stone wall Wright had decided to add. He had built Kentuck Knob for the Hagan family of ice cream fame. They were not as wealthy by far as the Kaufmans, so this house was representative of what Wright tried to do for "everyman." You can see the house at the website: www.kentuckknob.org and see how small it is. The hallway to the bedrooms is only 19-inches wide so that the family could never remove the furniture Wright had built into the walls--sounds like Wright, right? Yes, everything on the tour sounded like Wright. He had not got along well with Mrs. Hagan, I think, though he didn't meet the Hagans. But the tour guide's narration of a phone call Mrs. Hagan made to Wright asking for more furniture was revealing of their differences and of Wright's view of his own role as architect: he wanted to do everything for his customers in final form, so that they could get on with enjoying their lives and never need a thing! He was insulted, not artistically, but professionally, his usefulness not appreciated--I was learning this! The working women of today would appreciate architects more than did the non-working women of yesterday--if only we could afford them!
This tour seemed more detailed than Fallingwaters: info on joining corners, preparing the roof for wind on top of that mountain, hanging doors, even. We tourists were extremely crowded into rooms the size in a "trailer home." But how beautiful, functional, durable and cleanable the house is for a small family! In detail, we figured the initial cost compared to others of its day, of today, and we saw how good Wright was, how much better this house than those we compared it to. What a treasure! I learned much more on this tour than at Fallingwaters.
The setting is on the mountain with a great view and paths, places to sit and appreciate the view, so that one doesn't have to run off after the tour. There is a "sculpture garden," a really different one with a "red army" and another interesting artifact: a piece of the Berlin Wall. You must see Fallingwaters, of course, but you can do both on the same day. Better yet, stay a while in the Highlands.
From journal A Summer Working (and Playing) in the Laurel Highl