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Region employs the ‘Wright’ formula

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Emily Leone
Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Frank Lloyd Wright’s oft-quoted thought, “I believe in God, only I spell it N-A-T-U-R-E,” was the proper introduction to a groundbreaking ceremony Monday for a home designed by the world-famous architect in a Mt. Pleasant Township park.
Plans were revealed for the Usonian-style Duncan House that will be reconstructed as a guest house and tourist facility at Polymath Park Resort, a new safe haven for the historic home. It is only the fourth Wright home in the country in which tourists can stay.

Built in 1957, the 2,200-square-foot house was to be demolished in 2002, but Chicago-based Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy wanted it saved. The house was dismantled and moved from Lisle, Ill., to Johnstown, where plans to turn it into an education center fell through.

At yesterday’s groundbreaking, Polymath public relations director Laura Newsmith said once the core frame has been reconstructed, the Duncan House will be rebuilt, redecorated and furnished according to original blueprints and styles of the 1950s.

“We are fortunate to have the land to build and expand the resort for several uses,” she said. “All of our activities will be culturally focused, with an emphasis on nature and improving the mind, body and spirit.”
The house will join two other Wright homes already at the park — the Blum and Balter homes — available for year-round leasing. Construction will begin in July to put the Duncan House back together, and the floor plan includes three bedrooms, two baths and Wright’s trademark open living/dining area with a natural stone fireplace at the center.

The park, off Clay Pike Road on the southern slope of Chestnut Ridge, was developed in the 1960s by Peter Berndtson, one of Wright’s apprentices. The area then was called Treetops and Mountain Circles and was meant to be a residential area. Owner Tom Papinchak bought the land two years ago and said there were several others bidding for the house, but Polymath received it because it was a “natural fit.”

In 2005, Papinchak began working with the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, state agencies and The Progress Fund, an organization that helps to provide for rural businesses in Southwestern Pennsylvania. In a short amount of time, Polymath had not only secured the house but found several sponsors who would contribute reconstruction necessities, such as laying the foundation and roofing the home.

Newsmith hopes that with Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob so close, the addition of the Duncan House will complete a touring circuit, allowing tourists visiting other locations the opportunity to stay at the home, an “attractive location” within the Laurel Highlands.

Known nationally and internationally, Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob are considered two of the area’s most valuable attractions, said Julie Duncan of the Laurel Highlands Tourism Bureau.

“One of the biggest questions we get is where do you stay if you are visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright house or Kentuck Knob,” she said. “To have the opportunity to spend the night in a Frank Lloyd Wright house and then go to Fallingwater the next day just adds to the Frank Lloyd Wright experience.”

That experience includes the perfect unity of nature and architecture, a harmony that Papinchak believes can be found at Polymath and is further defined by the addition of the Duncan House.

More importantly, Papinchak said, the area will retain its charm and private setting and will not become commercial.

Construction on the Duncan House will be completed in the fall, and reservations and tour information will be announced in August.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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