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Frank and Foliage

Autumn is a perfect time to get to know America’s greatest architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Seeing the fall colors with their hues explosion fills me with a sense of renewal, energy, and a feeling that anything is possible. When this type of mood hits, 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 works of a man 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 during fall’s peak season of an artist who reached his.

Fallingwater – Mill Creek, PA


Fallingwater was commissioned by a wealthy Pittsburgh family that valued time spent outdoors and wanted a vacation home within a day’s travel from Pittsburgh but was still rural enough to distance themselves from the hurried pace of their day-to-day 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 and 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 surrounding it.  This beauty is first encountered by guests on the home tour after they complete a short walk from the Visitors Center to the home.  A stroll that follows the Bear Run until the creek reaches the waterfall that became the anchor point for Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision of the home.  At the trail’s end, visitors are given their first glimpse of the home surrounded by the bright splashes of red, yellow, and purple leaves that temporarily dress the hickory, maple, and oak trees framing the home.  As the tour progresses to the inside of 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 boundary of interior and exterior.  At the end of the tour, visitors are encouraged to view the home for a final time from the overlook where this very picture was taken.  As you can see, the combination of fall colors with this brilliant architecture is 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 would be preserved for and appreciated by the public.  This website has directions to the site, information about its history, and visiting hours, and it also has a 24-hour webcam, so you can time your arrival to synch with the arrival of the fall colors.

Oak Park, Illinois


With over 400 buildings spread over 38 states, Oak Park, Illinois boasts the largest collection of Wright-designed buildings in the U.S.  Take a walking tour of 25 homes built from 1889 to 1913 and see first-hand the streets where he perfected his Prairie Style.  Illinois is known for its brilliant reds and yellows from around mid-October 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 and a perfect place to witness fall 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.  Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for his own family as well as his first studio, this is where he worked for the first 20 years of his career. This home is open to the public, and you can take self-guided and expert-led tours.  MORE INFO

Stay in Chicago and make a day trip.  Oak Park is only ten miles from the city and easily accessible by public transport by the CTA blue and green lines.

Have you toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic homes?  Share your favorites in the comments.

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Yep, I’ve been to several of FLW’s designed homes. Fallingwater is amazing in any season though Taliesin West is best in fall through spring. Kentuck Knob (just south of Fallingwater) is best paired with the visit to Mill Run and is nice to see a somewhat more modest sized home. The Darwin D. Martin house in Buffalo is probably best spring through fall, as is Greycliff near the lake. I’ve driven through Oak Park many years ago and hope to return soon so I can take a walking tour.

    Hollyhock house near LA is great any time of year–though I wish some of the other LA area houses were open for tours once in a while. I’ve only been able to do some drive by’s of them. The Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael is also great anytime, though you could get wet in the ‘rainy’ season (winter). Personally, I like it in March and April with the super green hills.

  2. He designed several true wonders, here in Oklahoma. Add sites that I have been to in other states, and I count the work of FLW as one of America’s serious treasures.

  3. Visited Home and Studio then walked through some of Oak Park. The guided tour first really helped you “see” the homes in the neighborhood. He was not a nice guy but definitely an architectural genius. But have to say the dining chairs look so uncomfortable, like MacIntosh’s too.

  4. Frank Lloyd Wright’s home “Taliesin” is outside Spring Green, Wisconsin and is definitely worth a trip in the autumn (two-hour drive west of Milwaukee and 3.5-hour drive NW of Oak Park/Chicago). The natural landscape in SW Wisconsin is as scenic as Fallingwater’s. There are other FLW buildings in near-by communities including a grade school building (now an artist’s atelier), a warehouse, and a Unitarian church in Madison. Also near Taliesin is the Unity Chapel Cemetery where many of FLW’s family members are buried including his granddaughter, Academy Award-winning actress Anne Baxter. Many books claim the chapel to be FLW’s very first building.
    I grew up in Oak Park and still live in the area (…and I am an architect), so my biased opinion agrees with how Samantha describes Oak Park. FYI- Unity Temple, just barely one-half mile from FLW’s Home and Studio, is now re-open for tours after a lengthy and involved restoration and is very-much worth a visit.

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