Kentuck Knob is a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) located in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania.
I.N. and Bernardine Hagan made their riches in the ice cream business. In fact, at the visitor center, they sell it by the scoop. The Hagans were friends with another well-to-do Pittsburgh-area family, the Kaufmanns. You might remember them as the family that built Fallingwater. The Hagans reached out to the then 85-year-old architect who agreed to design the home.
Kentuck Knob is only 4 miles away from Fallingwater, making for an easy trip to see both.
After a short ride on a shuttle bus, I meet our tour at the driveway just outside the front door.
Immediately ahead is the home in all of its Usonian glory. To the left the parking area for cars. Fun facts: did you know FLW coined the term carport? Did you know you can also thank his Usonian homes for the high popularity of the ranch style?
Today’s rain drips from the stylish triangular downspout after making its way across the home’s copper roof (which cost the Hagan’s $96,000).
In addition to the impressive copper roof, the home makes use of beautiful red cypress and local sandstone.
Dear reader, once again I risk life and limb for you to capture photos of the home. Much like Fallingwater, they don’t want you taking pictures inside the building. That’s a pretty frustrating thing for those of us who really like taking photos. I don’t get this stance at all. Sure, ban selfie sticks if you want, maybe even ban video, but let the people take some photos!
There were lots of great pieces of period furniture inside. The kitchen is a total time warp to the 1950s. The skinny 21-inch wide hallways are motivation enough to stay in shape. Although FLW just intended to keep you moving to a more open space in the home, you have to wonder if he was subliminally forcing the Hagans to not indulge in their own products too much.
A wall of doors from the living room all swing open to allow the space to flow easily to the outdoors.
A hexagonal motif is seen throughout the home, these openings allow little hexagonal sunspots to appear on the stone below.
FLW said “No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.”
The house is situated just below the crest of the hill, appearing almost part of the mountain itself.
Just a few steps from the back terrace is an impressive panorama of the Youghiogheny River Gorge and the Laurel Highlands mountains that surround it. At 2,050 feet above sea level, you can see for miles from this spot.
It’s a great place for quiet reflection or a big ole wedding which they often do here.
All around the house and along the “Woodland Walk” trail that leads all the way back to the visitor center, you can experience the 30 or so sculptures that the current owner has added to the property.
This is not the work of the original owners, the Hagans, but the new owners Lord Peter Palumbo and his wife Hayat.
He visited the Kentuck Knob house after visiting Fallingwater. His daughter Laura wanted to see the other FLW house nearby and Lord Palumbo, I guess, just had to have it. He purchased the home in 1986.
A few of the pieces that caught my eye were this section of the Berlin Wall and two installations by Andy Goldsworthy.
The first installation you’ll encounter from the English artist is Floodstones Cairn.
The next one on the path is Room. This piece was the very first commissioned work for Mr. Goldsworthy.
Lord Palumbo wrote of Kentuck Knob: “I think that both I and the State of Pennsylvania owe a great debt of gratitude to Mr. and Mrs. I.N. Hagan for an inspired commission from an architect of legendary renown. The site, moreover, is of a spectacular beauty that never palls whatever the season and whatever the gap between visits, whether one month or ten minutes.”
While the Palumbos have made their mark on the site (for instance, this iconic British phone booth), they’ve kept the Hagan influence alive here, too.
I don’t think I can leave without trying the very product that made my visit possible today.
And then eat it like some kind of crazy person. Selfies are hard.
Kentuck Knob tours cost $35 for adults and are around 45 minutes long. Afterward, you can explore the grounds for as long as you like. No separate purchase is required to see the grounds in addition to the house.
Alternatively, you can purchase just a Woodland Walk pass to explore the grounds and exterior of the home for $12.
Operating hours are seasonal, so be sure to visit their website for the latest info.
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