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Floods topple statue, trees at Fallingwater

| Saturday, July 15, 2017, 12:21 p.m.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
The plunge pool at Fallingwater, showing the Mother and Child I statue, in January 2014.

Heavy rain caused the creek flowing beneath Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Fallingwater house to overflow and topple a statue, according to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Bear Run, which flows beneath the Fayette County National Historic Landmark, "rose to a deluge" early Saturday morning, toppling a tree that appeared to have dislodged a large bronze statue from its place between the creek and a plunge pool beneath the house, said Lynda Waggoner, director of Fallingwater and vice president of the conservancy. The tree damaged the wall the statue sat on and left the statue submerged in the raging creek, held up by a chain that was installed after a 1956 flood and was recently replaced, Waggoner said.

Waggoner said workers would try to drain the plunge pool to create a staging area for repairing the wall and moving the statue back into place. It was unknown whether the statue was damaged by the tree or its fall into the water.

"We don't know the condition of the sculpture because it's still facedown in the water," Waggoner said. "We don't know what we're dealing with yet until we can assess the sculpture."

The conservancy said the flooding didn't affect the inside of the house, but did damage some trees near the guest house. Debris was visible on stairs leading down to Bear Run from the main house's first floor.

The house was designed by Wright and built overhanging a 30-foot waterfall between 1937 and 1939 for the family of Pittsburgh department store magnate Edgar J. Kaufmann.

Tours of the house were scheduled to continue Saturday and Sunday despite the flood damage; the conservancy warned tours were running 30 to 45 minutes behind schedule Saturday.

The statue, "Mother and Child I," was designed by sculptor Jacques Lipchitz and placed at the edge of the plunge pool by Wright. It depicts a legless, bare-breasted woman with her arms outstretched, with a child clinging to her neck.

According to the conservancy's website, the Lithuanian-born Lipchitz began sketching the design while living in Paris in 1939, but didn't have it cast in bronze until 1941, when he fled Nazi occupation and ended up in New York. Another version of the statue is on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724 836 6660, or on Twitter @msantoni.

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