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Frank Lloyd Wright: Revolutionary Contributions to Modern Architecture

Program No. 1885RJ
Join experts in the Laurel Mountains to immerse yourself in the works of Frank Lloyd Wright as you explore three of his most iconic designs, including a visit to Fallingwater.

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At a Glance

Frank Lloyd Wright is considered by some to be the greatest American architect. Explore the many facets of his contributions to modern architecture in discussions with experts representing three Wright-designed houses in this region. Step inside these exquisite homes to compare and contrast them while you consider the 75-year career of the architect, a working life that spanned two world wars.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Moderate walking and standing on each of the field trips. Morning lectures followed by afternoon field trips to the houses to experience them as works of art. There are approximately 100 stairs to negotiate at Fallingwater.

What You'll Learn

  • Visit Fallingwater, Wright's best essay on the harmony between architecture and nature.
  • Admire a superb example of Wright’s organic architecture at Kentuck Knob, a private residence blending impeccably with its surroundings.
  • At Duncan House, marvel at the fascinating story of this home’s journey from Illinois to Pennsylvania.

General Notes

The Retreat Difference: This is a Road Scholar Retreat program. Our Retreat programs offer a tranquil respite from daily life in locales that lend themselves to outdoor exploration, reflection, or study. The accommodations may be basic in nature, but the facilities offer communal spaces to gather and to relax. During the week, opportunities usually exist for some combination of light exercise, a locally sourced meal, or evening entertainment.
Featured Expert
All trip experts
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Amy Humbert
Amy Humbert has been employed in the Fallingwater Education department since 1986 and currently manages the school and outreach programs that are offered. She is a second-generation employee of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Her late father, Frank “Lee” Lowden, was a naturalist at Ferncliff in Ohiopyle and also at the Bear Run Nature Reserve adjacent to Fallingwater. Amy lives close by in Ohiopyle with her husband, Roger, who was employed for a number of years in Fallingwater’s Preservation department.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Amy Humbert
Amy Humbert View biography
Amy Humbert has been employed in the Fallingwater Education department since 1986 and currently manages the school and outreach programs that are offered. She is a second-generation employee of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Her late father, Frank “Lee” Lowden, was a naturalist at Ferncliff in Ohiopyle and also at the Bear Run Nature Reserve adjacent to Fallingwater. Amy lives close by in Ohiopyle with her husband, Roger, who was employed for a number of years in Fallingwater’s Preservation department.
Profile Image of Scott Wise
Scott Wise View biography
Scott Wise is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University. He has been a theatrical professional for 30 years, including a stint as Artistic Director of the Pittsburgh International Folk Theater, and was the recipient of a Choreographers Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Scott is an amateur potter.
Profile Image of Mary Kaufman
Mary Kaufman View biography
Mary Kaufman holds degrees in journalism-professional writing and in communications-PR. She began her career at VisitPittsburgh and is the new program director at Laurelville. A Penn State Master Gardener, she finds meaning in volunteering, teaching, and gardening. Mary co-owns a small plant nursery and enjoys garden design, biking, hiking, yoga, reading, cooking, and being outdoors.
Profile Image of Robin Albright
Robin Albright View biography
Robin Albright is a registered yoga teacher (RYT 200) from Pennsylvania who works full-time in higher education. She has been teaching yoga for three years and practicing it for more than 20. When she is not on the mat, she might be weight training, trail running and hiking, playing tennis, or spinning. She enjoys reading, attending concerts and music festivals, and playing with her dogs. She loves helping people develop strength and self-love with a mindful practice that threads together breathwork and physical postures.
Profile Image of Ashley Andrykovitch
Ashley Andrykovitch View biography
Ashley Andrykovitch is the Curator of Education at Fallingwater. She holds a MA in Education from Seton Hill University, a Certificate of 19th and 20th Century Fine Art History from Sotheby's Institute, and a BA in Studio Art from Saint Vincent College. Prior to working at Fallingwater, Andrykovitch was Assistant Curator of Education at Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. She is also a visual artist and resident at UnSmoke Systems in Braddock, Pennsylvania.
Profile Image of Daniel Cocks
Daniel Cocks View biography
Daniel Cocks is Executive Director of the Fayette County Cultural Trust. One of their projects is the Connellsville Canteen, a reconstructed B&O (Baltimore & Ohio) Railroad Station that highlights the “canteen ladies” who fed the troops during World War II. The museum showcases thousands of WWII artifacts. It also features a display on the late John Woodruff, one of Connellsville's residents who won a gold medal during the 800 meter race in the 1936 Olympics. Another highlight is Harry Clark's Indian Creek Valley Railroad display.
Profile Image of Lisa Hall
Lisa Hall View biography
Lisa Hall is a graduate of Washington and Jefferson College with degrees in Fine Art and Business Administration. Currently, she is an educator and team member of the development department at Fallingwater. Previously, she owned and operated a hardware store and café. When she isn't working, she is hiking or creating in stone and metal.
Profile Image of Amy Craig
Amy Craig View biography
Amy Craig is a member of Laurelville's Guest Services/Program department. Amy has worked in a variety of jobs and fields, including customer service, owning her own photography business, and health care. She has a great love of travel, adventure, and new experiences. Amy has been married to her husband Scott for over two decades and has two daughters. In her free time, she enjoys photography, paddle boarding, finding new restaurants and fun activities, singing on her church's worship team, and relaxing by a fire.
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While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our published materials, programs are typically advertised more than a year prior to their start date. As a result, some program activities, schedules, accommodations, personnel, and other logistics occasionally change due to local conditions or circumstances. Should a major change occur, we will make every effort to alert you. For less significant changes, we will update you during orientation. Thank you for your understanding.
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5 days
4 nights
12 meals
4 B 1BR 3 L 4 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Tour, Welcome Dinner
Mount Pleasant, PA
Laurelville Retreat Center

Activity note: Check-in from 5:00 p.m. Remember to bring your nametag (sent previously).

Afternoon: Program Registration: 5:00 p.m. Register at the Road Scholar table in the Dining Hall lobby for your room assignment and welcome packet. Light snacks and meet and greet until dinner. Take your luggage to your lodging building and return to the Dining Hall for dinner. If arriving after 7 p.m., contact your site coordinator.

Dinner: In the Dining Hall.

Evening: Orientation. Back at our lodging, the Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. This is a Road Scholar Retreats program which includes opportunities for light morning exercise, interaction with members of the local community, and a farm-to-table or locally sourced meal. Programs, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. Staff will alert you as quickly as possible to any changes.

Polymath Park's Duncan House and Mantyla House; Documentary
Mount Pleasant, PA
Laurelville Retreat Center

Activity note: Light walking on gravel trail beside Jacob’s Creek. Getting on/off a motorcoach several times. Walking 0.5 miles or riding on gravel road to Duncan and Mantyla Houses. Approximately 40 minutes of walking and standing on gravel and inside house; less then 6 stairs inside house.

Breakfast: Continental breakfast in our lodging (the Solarhouse).

Morning: Optional walk along the creek. We’ll gather in the Solarhouse for this morning’s presentation, entitled "Wright's Patrons and Projects" presented by the staff from Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright's premier architectural masterpiece. We’ll have an in-depth look at the controversy that often surrounded Wright and his clients. It is said that one of Wright's clients, Edgar Kauffman, owner of Fallingwater, told the Hagans, owners of Kentuck Knob, that when giving Wright the budget for building their home they should quote no more than half of what they intended to spend in the end. Far exceeding his budget was one of many qualities that impacted Wright’s relationships with clients. Even amid controversies, ultimately it was Wright's vision that drew clients from across the country to him and catalyzed an amazing career, spanning two world wars and two continents.

Lunch: Buffet style lunch in the Dining Hall

Afternoon: We board our motorcoach to explore the world of organic architecture through the eyes of Frank Lloyd Wright while enjoying the scenic Laurel Highlands’ surroundings. During our visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Duncan House and Mantyla House, we will experience the height of Usonian Style with the help of knowledgeable docents. Wright created Usonians for everyday life in the 1950s. We will marvel at the fascinating story of preserving these two homes for future generations. We will return to Laurelville for a quick tour of some of the center's 600 acres on "The People mover," an open-air wagon ride.

Dinner: Buffet style in the dining hall.

Evening: Enjoy part one of a special showing of the Ken Burns documentary on Frank Lloyd Wright (approx 85 minutes). Film description: “Frank Lloyd Wright was was an authentic American genius, designing over eight hundred buildings, including such revolutionary structures as the Guggenheim Museum, the Johnson Wax Building, Fallingwater, Unity Temple, and Taliesin. Wright's buildings and his ideas changed the way we live, work, and see the world around us. Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural achievements were often overshadowed by the turbulence of his melodramatic life. In 92 years, he fathered seven children, married three times, and constantly embroiled scandal. Some hated him, some loved him, but in the end, few could deny that he was the most important architect in America and perhaps the world. With exquisite live cinematography, fascinating interviews, and rare archival footage, this riveting film brings Wright's unforgettable story to life.”

Yoga, Morning Lectures, Fallingwater visit, Documentary
Mount Pleasant, PA
Laurelville Retreat Center

Activity note: Morning yoga by a certified instructor is provided early. Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving 21 miles, approximately 50 minutes to Fallingwater, with a brief visit before to Ohiopyle State Park's stunning waterfall and Visitor's Center. Getting on/off a shuttle bus; considerable walking; approximately 100 steps throughout the house; video demonstration of the second floor for those unable to climb steps.

Breakfast: Continental breakfast in the Solarhouse for a gentle-paced, casual morning.

Morning: Optional early yoga class.The first presentation, led by Fallingwater staff, will be "The Art at Fallingwater," an insider's view as you engage with the private art collection on display within Fallingwater. While the house is a work of art in itself, the Kauffmans accrued an incredible collection from artists such as Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera, Ando Hiroshige, and John James Audubon, as well as notable pieces of Tiffany glass work and ancient relics. The second morning presentation will be "Frank Lloyd Wright: Holding Up Fallingwater." This will be a hands-on session to engage participants in learning about one of the key architectural principles of Fallingwater and many other Wright designs - the cantilever.

Lunch: Board the motorcoach and travel to the Connellsville Canteen for lunch and a program. Explore with your head and your heart, the growing WWII museum and one-of-a-kind model railroad of the region. Featured on Travel Channel's "Mysteries at the Museum."

Afternoon: We will travel by motorcoach to Fallingwater. We'll be greeted at the site with a welcome reception featuring a special treat from the Fallingwater Cookbook, a collection of recipes from Elsie Henderson, the last cook of Fallingwater whom we'll learn more about on Thursday.Fallingwater is recognized today as arguably Frank Lloyd Wright’s finest work and the last great Frank Lloyd Wright house with its setting, original furnishings, and artwork intact. A living, breathing house in perfect harmony with its setting, the building was voted the “best all-time work of American architecture” in a 1991 poll of members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Fallingwater docents will share the secrets of Wright's masterpiece as you take in every turn and view. We’ll have an opportunity to enjoy the iconic overlook of the house and to browse the lovely Fallingwater Museum Shop.

Dinner: Buffet style in the Dining Hall.

Evening: Back at Laurelville, enjoy assembling a Frank Lloyd Wright puzzle, play games, peruse our vast collection of books to borrow, or enjoy fellow travelers' company.

Morning Lectures, Kentuck Knob House, dinner off-site
Mount Pleasant, PA
Laurelville Retreat Center

Activity note: Guided, optional early morning hike; roots and rocks on trail. Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 30 miles, approximately 50 minutes. Getting on/off a shuttle bus at Kentuck Knob; considerable walking/standing for one hour.

Breakfast: Buffet-style breakfast in the Dining Hall.

Morning: Free time or optional walk to Sunset Hill to soak in the beauty of some of our 600 acres and visit the labyrinth. Sturdy shoes required. After breakfast, we'll view part 2 of Ken Burns' Frank Lloyd Wright movie, approx 70 minutes. After a break, we will take a closer look at the 8 buildings that make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site, including the 20th Century architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Lunch: Buffet style in the Dining Hall.

Afternoon: We will travel by motorcoach to Kentuck Knob. NOTE: indoor photography is not permitted. Wright and his architects at Taliesin designed the Usonian home for the I.N. Hagan family, who resided there for almost 30 years. The visit to Kentuck Knob is further enhanced by unsual collections and sculptures located in the garden, the woods, and the meadow. NOTE: we divide into groups and shuttle up to the house. There is considerable walking and standing during the one-hour visit. The shuttle is available to return guests back to the visitor center and gift shop, but you may also choose to walk back through the sculpture meadow if time allows.

Dinner: We will end an amazing day by sharing favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner at a local premiere restaurant. Guests may choose to purchase alcoholic beverages.

Evening: The evening will be spent enjoying each other's company over fine food, so expect a late return back to Laurelville. Prepare for check-out and departure tomorrow.

"Saving Fallingwater" & Elsie Henderson; Program Concludes
Mount Pleasant, PA

Activity note: Check-out 12 p.m.

Breakfast: Continental breakfast in the Solarhouse for free time and a gentle-paced morning before our program begins.

Morning: We'll watch the DVD, "Saving Fallingwater" to learn what innovative preservation approaches were implemented to preserve one of the most famous house museums in the world. Then enjoy a video interview of the late Elsie Henderson, who cooked for the original owners of Fallingwater – and their many weekend guests, including Senator Ted Kennedy and Wright himself. Elsie vividly recalls her memories and anecdotes of life in the renowned house on the waterfall in a voice all her own. Elsie is featured in a book written with her stories, pictures, and recipes, "The Fallingwater Cookbook: Elsie Henderson's Recipes and Memories." We’ll then discuss the videos.

Brunch: In the Dining Hall. This concludes our program.

Afternoon: Check out is by noon. Please leave your keys in your room. You are welcome to enjoy Laurelville's grounds, trails, creek, pollinator gardens, labyrinth, and outdoor spaces after check out. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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