A Wooster Geologist visits Fallingwater, southwestern Pennsylvania

While on our short Fall Break vacation in Pennsylvania, my wife, daughter and I visited the iconic Fallingwater. It must be one of the best known family houses short of Windsor Castle. Fallingwater is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is on the US National Register of Historic Places. It was built 1936-1939 following the modernist designs of the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It is situated within the beautiful Laurel Highlands near Fort Ligonier in the previous post. The weather was perfect.

I certainly can’t say much about the architecture and engineering (which are equally impressive), but I can note that the stones used in the house were quarried just down stream and are carefully used to reflect the stratigraphy of this little valley.

The local rock is a sandstone from the Pottsville Group (Upper Carboniferous), which is nearly level in this part of its exposure.

We didn’t go inside, but I got this one view through a window of the furnishings and open architecture. Mid-Century Modern, I heard this style called. A little too open for me, but then you’d never find me living in a house so completely surrounded by trees with a river flowing through it!

The “plunge pool” under the house catches the “falling water” from Bear Run. It produces a dramatic rumble through the house. The geologist in me, though, is a bit disappointed with the engineered outcrop — lots of vertical and horizontal surfaces. I suppose the flow must be carefully managed, though, because there’s a house built on top of it!

Fallingwater is worth the visit, even if it is just a walk around it in the woods.

About Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson is a Professor of Geology at The College of Wooster. He specializes in invertebrate paleontology, carbonate sedimentology, and stratigraphy. He also is an expert on pseudoscience, especially creationism.
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