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Fallingwater, courthouse make Architects’ cut

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Joe Napsha
Thursday, February 8, 2007

Fallingwater, the famous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Fayette County, and the Allegheny County Courthouse, Downtown, were rated as two of America’s 150 favorite pieces of architecture, in a list announced Wednesday.
“There is no question these are the two most uniquely architecturally significant structures (in the region). People come from throughout the world to see them,” said Arthur P. Ziegler Jr., president of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

Ziegler, whose organization is involved in preserving historic and architecturally significant properties in the region, said he was not surprised that Fallingwater and the Allegheny County Courthouse made the list.

The Empire State Building in New York City, followed by the White House in Washington, were at the top of the American Institute of Architects’ list of 150 favorite pieces of American architecture. The list was developed in conjunction with the association’s 150th anniversary.

Fallingwater, which Wright designed in the 1936 for Edgar J. Kaufmann, owner of the former Kaufmann’s department store in Pittsburgh, might be one of Wright’s most innovative works, Ziegler said.

“There really is no other house like it, yet,” Ziegler said, calling it “an extraordinary design in an extra ordinary site.”

The house at Mill Run, which Wright placed over a waterfall on Bear Run, is so popular that it attracts 130,000 visitors annually, said Clinton Piper, museums program assistant at Fallingwater.

“It’s something that continues to speak to people at all levels of education. People can come here without any prior knowledge of this and can find something inspiring. I think that’s part of its enduring appeal,” Piper said.

The Allegheny County Courthouse on Grant Street, which was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and finished in 1886, “is a timeless piece of architecture and represents a real quantum leap in terms of American style,” said Thomas Briney, immediate past president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

“Richardson had a singular kind of style and that’s what set it apart,” said Briney, an architect with Perkins Eastman, Downtown.

Richardson considered the courthouse “the culmination of his career,” Ziegler said.

To the late James Van Trump, the landmarks foundation’s co-founder, the courthouse was “the architectural lion of Pittsburgh,” Ziegler said.

Two buildings in Western Pennsylvania were ranked in the top 35 of the American Institute of Architects’ 150 favorite pieces of American architecture.

1. Empire State Building, New York City

2. The White House, Washington

3. Washington National Cathedral, Washington

4. Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington

5. Golden State Bridge, San Francisco

6. U.S. Capitol, Washington

7. Lincoln Memorial, Washington

8. Biltmore Estate (Vanderbilt residence), Asheville, N.C.

9. Chrysler Building, New York City

10. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington

29. Fallingwater (Kaufmann family residence), Mill Run, Fayette County

35. Allegheny County Courthouse, Pittsburgh

Joe Napsha can be reached at or (412)-320-7993.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633