Share This Page

Rare arctic freeze hits Frank Lloyd Wright creation Fallingwater

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 11:30 p.m.
Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
An icy Bear Run moves under Fallingwater on Wednesday, January 8, 2014. The cascading waterfall that inspired Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterful Fallingwater has frozen solid in this week’s subzero temperatures, a rarity for the normally quickly flowing water. Even the frigid temperatures couldn’t stop a bit of water that continued to run beneath the ice. Bear Run, the stream below the iconic house, continued to flow freely on Wednesday despite the chill. The falls began icing over as soon as the temperature dropped on Sunday night.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
An icy Bear Run moves under Fallingwater on Wednesday, January 8, 2014. Cold temperatures throughout the week has provided icy displays from waterfalls and streams throughout the Laurel Highlands area.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
An icy Bear Run moves under Fallingwater on Wednesday, January 8, 2014. Cold temperatures throughout the week has provided icy displays from waterfalls and streams throughout the Laurel Highlands area.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
An icy Bear Run moves under Fallingwater on Wednesday, January 8, 2014. Cold temperatures throughout the week has provided icy displays from waterfalls and streams throughout the Laurel Highlands area.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
An icy Bear Run moves under Fallingwater on Wednesday, January 8, 2014. Cold temperatures throughout the week has provided icy displays from waterfalls and streams throughout the Laurel Highlands area.

The cascading waterfall that inspired Frank Lloyd Wright's masterful Fallingwater has frozen solid in this week's subzero temperatures, a rarity for the normally swift-flowing stream.

“It's a huge icicle,” said Lynda Waggoner, director of Fallingwater and vice president of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. “A huge glacier almost.”

Bear Run, the stream under the iconic house, still flowed freely, and even the frigid temperature couldn't stop a bit of water that trickled beneath the ice, she said.

“It really just can't stop, but the falls look as if they're frozen over completely,” she said.

In Connellsville, about 15 miles from Fallingwater in Mill Run, temperatures plunged to minus 10 on Tuesday with a wind chill of minus 35. Wednesday morning warmed to a temperature reading of minus 7, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Fred McMullen.

The falls began icing over as soon as the temperature dropped on Sunday night, a phenomenon Waggoner said had only happened two or three times in her 30 years of work with Fallingwater.

As temperatures are expected to reach a balmy 50 degrees this weekend, the waterfall that captivated Wright will likely thaw.

“The ledge that creates the waterfall is a cantilever,” Waggoner said. “He saw that ledge and then created a series of cantilevers that reconnect the house to the site, so that was clearly the inspiration for the house.”

The Fallingwater staff keeps a close eye on the architectural masterpiece, built in 1935, throughout the year.

They installed year-round structural monitors this fall to check on cracks along the terrace wall and beneath the house.

“It'll be interesting to review the results of those structural monitors to see what the thermal impact has been over the last week or so, especially given we're having these extraordinarily cold temperatures now and then Saturday is going to be in the 50s,” she said.

The home is closed to visitors during January and February, but passes to view the grounds are available, weather permitting. Admirers can view the site any time through a webcam video streaming on www.fallingwater.org.

“Fallingwater changes with the seasons. (It's) never the same house in the winter as it is in the summer or fall,” Waggoner said. “Around Fallingwater, with all of the rhododendron and hemlocks, it still is green. And that green against the snow is just stunning.”

Rossilynne Skena Culgan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or rskena@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.