Sam Brown’s Perfect Fall Destinations
Autumn and Architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright
Autumn is a perfect time to get to know America’s greatest architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Seeing fall’s colorful explosion of hues fills me with such a sense of renewal, energy … and a feeling that anything is possible. When this type of mood hits me, I like to take advantage of it, and I can’t think of a better way than to absorb -- and be transformed -- by the maverick whose works were inspired by nature.
Frank Lloyd Wright created, among other things, Prairie Style architecture. His rebellious style went on to set a fascinating course for American architecture and, thankfully because of him, we’ve never looked back. When the earth changes, so do we. Here is a city-and-country view of fall’s peak season as told through the works of an artist who reached his.
Mill Creek, Pennsylvania
Fallingwater was commissioned by a wealthy Pittsburgh family that wanted a vacation home within a day’s travel from Pittsburgh that was still rural enough to distance themselves from the hurried pace of their day-to-day city lives. As a result, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most iconic pieces is not easily accessible. Located in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania, the home is tucked away in the Laurel Highlands of the Allegheny Mountains. Still, it can be reached by car within 2 hours from downtown Pittsburgh.
I am absolutely convinced that Fallingwater is the most beautiful to behold in the autumn, when the earth tones of the house’s exterior are enhanced by the changing colors of the hardwood trees that surround it. Guests first encounter the beauty of the home after a short walk from the ground’s visitors center. A stroll follows the Bear Run tributary until the creek reaches the waterfall that became the anchor point for Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for the home. At the end of the trail, visitors get their first glimpse of the home surrounded by bright splashes of red, yellow and purple leaves, which temporarily dress the hickory, maple and oak trees that frame the home.
As the tour progresses into the house, visitors are again treated to the beauty of the fall colors framed by the many windows of the residence. Frank Lloyd Wright used a palate of autumn colors, such as “Cherokee Red” throughout the house, and the presence of those beautiful colors blurs the boundaries between the interior and exterior spaces. At the end of the tour, visitors are encouraged to view the home for a final time from the overlook where this very picture (left) was taken. As you can see, the combination of fall colors with this brilliant piece of architecture is absolutely breathtaking.
Fallingwater was donated to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in the ’60s by the same family that commissioned the design, so that one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most important pieces could be preserved for, and appreciated by, the public. Fallingwater’s website has directions to the site, information about its history and visiting hours, as well as a 24-hour webcam so you can time your arrival to synch with the arrival of the fall colors.
Oak Park, Illinois
Among the more than 400 buildings spread across 38 states, Oak Park, IL, boasts the largest collection of Wright-designed buildings in the US. Take a walking tour of 25 homes built between 1889 and 1913, and see first-hand the streets where Wright perfected his Prairie Style. Illinois is known for its brilliant reds and yellows from around mid- to late October, and this tree-lined neighborhood of sturdy hardwoods (I’m guessing by the name there are a lot of Oaks) is a leafy urban utopia. It’s also a perfect place to witness fall’s splendor as you walk from one home to the next.
Don’t miss the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio, the highlight of the walking tour. The home was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for his own family, and includes his first studio where he worked for the first 20 years of his career. The home is open to the public, and you can take self-guided and expert-led tours.
Stay in Chicago and make it a day trip. Oak Park is only 10 miles from the city and easily accessible by public transport via the CTA blue and green lines.
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