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Rare arctic freeze hits Frank Lloyd Wright creation Fallingwater

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By Rossilynne Skena Culgan

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 11:12 p.m.

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.

 

 
 


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