Bel Air News & Views visits Kentuck Knob

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Bel Air News & Views’ leaf-peeping this past weekend included a tour of Kentuck Knob, Frank Lloyd Wright’s other house tucked just seven miles south of his famous Fallingwater in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania. Wright designed this home in his Usonian style for the I.N. Hagan family of Uniontown, Pennsylvania in 1953. It is less grand than Fallingwater with its cantilevered decks. But it feels like the kind of house you’d feel comfortable in — as the Hagan family did for some 30 years. (It’s now owned by the Lord and Lady Palumbo of London, England who use it mainly for entertaining when they happen to be in town.) The home and grounds — which are dotted with unusual modern sculptures, including an enormous apple core that would likely have riled Wright — are run as a museum by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. In this octagonal home tucked into a hillside, Wright generously employed his notion of compressing space as you enter a room and then releasing you into its wide open area. This house, in particular, had so much of that, I started to feel a little squished. There were some passageways where visitors had to turn sideways to pass through. (I guess people were a whole lot smaller back in 1953) Like Fallingwater’s waterfall that could be heard but not seen from inside the home, Kentuck Knob also has a visually stunning secret. After the tour ended, our guide walked us out to a path that led to the crest of a hill and urged us to mosey on over and take a peek. When we stepped out of the tree line, we soaked in a view some 50-miles in all directions of the Youghiogheny River Gorge and the mountains painted in shades of autumn. The whole tour group stood there somewhat dumbfounded for at least 10 minutes. Then I had to giggle. This is where I imagine the Hagan family expected to be sitting in their easy chairs, taking in the view until Wright likely insisted they tuck the house into a more natural spot in the hillside and out of the way of the view.