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Fallingwater rolls out welcome mat for celebrities

| Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, 4:22 p.m.
Since it opened its doors to the public in 1964, Fallingwater has welcomed famous faces from all over the world.
Tribune-Review
Since it opened its doors to the public in 1964, Fallingwater has welcomed famous faces from all over the world.

Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the most famous architects in American history, and his masterpiece Fallingwater is one of his most, if not the most, famous designs, so it would only seem natural that famous people be drawn to the famous spot.

“Albert Einstein is probably the most famous person who has ever visited ...,” Fallingwater director Lynda Waggoner said of the German theoretical physicist who visited owners Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann when he was in Pittsburgh for a conference in 1939. “There have been many interesting visitors here over the years.”

Fallingwater was built for the Kaufmann family in 1938 along Bear Run as a replacement for their mountain retreat that was a small cabin without running water or electricity.

The Kaufmanns were initially quite surprised at the designs completed by Wright that showed the house built over the 30-foot waterfall that was part of Bear Run instead of it having the falls as a view.

Now the majestic house is a National Historic Landmark that welcomes visitors from all over the world to tour and take a peek into the whimsical nature of Frank Lloyd Wright.

“We have had many famous people visit here,” Waggoner said, adding that most do not require or request any special treatment or security. “The one time that we had tight security was when the Supreme Court justices came here as a group. They had been at Nemacolin, then they came here, and the security was very high.”

Other notables over the years since the house opened to the public in 1964 have included prime ministers, several sports figures and athletes, politicians including Hillary Rodham Clinton when she was a New York senator, and many architects from around the world, including Wright's grandson Eric Lloyd Wright.

Motion picture and television stars also are frequently seen at the landmark, and Waggoner said that many of them come as a regular visitors, not wanting special attention or notice as they tour the home and appreciate the one-of-a-kind design that made the site world famous.

“There are many times that famous people are here that we only find out about afterward,” Waggoner said of stars such as Ewan McGregor who recently visited Fallingwater while staying in the area. “He was here, and we didn't even know about it until he posted a selfie of himself here.”

Waggoner said that the staff always takes the privacy of its visitors very seriously and respects their desire for anonymity if they so desire.

“Robert Duvall was here once, and someone noticed him standing in the gift shop,” Waggoner said of the Academy Award-winning actor. “They walked up to him and said ‘Are you Robert Duvall?' and he just slightly nodded and didn't say anything. She knew that he didn't want bothered so she left him be.”

Other actors have made their arrival a secret, but were more then happy to be photographed while at the house.

“We received a call once that a businessman from New York would be coming but we had no idea who it was that was coming,” Waggoner said. “We really didn't think twice about it until they called again and wanted to know if they could land their jet helicopter in our parking lot. Then it was ‘Who are these people who are coming?' ”

The visitors were Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, who were coming to the house as a surprise early birthday gift for Pitt in the winter of 2006.

“They couldn't have been nicer,” Waggoner said of the couple. “They had a private tour of Fallingwater and lunch and they seemed to really enjoy it.”

Other famous faces who have passed through the rooms of Fallingwater include Vanessa and Michael Redgrave, Tom Hanks and Ron Howard, who stopped after a Pirates baseball game, Dennis Miller, Michael Keaton, Will Farrell, Elizabeth Banks, Sigourney Weaver and Peter Falk.

“When Peter Falk visited, he had quite a time,” Waggoner said. “He fell in the stream then when he got back to the parking lot he had a flat tire. He had a very ‘Columbo-esque' visit, but he was very gracious.”

Fallingwater welcomes thousands of visitors every year and Waggoner said that it is not usual to see a famous face mixed in with the other visitors who come to tour and admire Frank Lloyd Wright's classic masterpiece.

“People are curious to see what it is like,” Waggoner said. “Fallingwater is truly one of a kind, and people just love it. They are intrigued by it and want to see it, and that goes for everyone, famous or not.”

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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