Tour America's Treasures

An invitation to tour America's historical sites...

Thursday, July 25, 2013


View Fallingwater in a larger map

Visit our Tour Destination: Pennsylvania page to see the entire tour of the state’s Save America’s Treasures sites.

Photo courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

1491 Mill Run Road
Mill Run, PA

Website:  Fallingwater

The Treasure:  A Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, Fallingwater is his iconic house on the waterfall—a sublime embodiment of Wright’s belief in “organic architecture.”

Accessibility: Advance ticket purchase is essential for all tours at Fallingwater. From April through November, the site is open daily (except Wednesday). Check the website for limited hours in March and December. The house is closed for tours in January and February, although Grounds Passes may be available, weather permitting.

First view of Fallingwater from the trail.
Photo by Lisa Price, courtesy of
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
Background:  Fallingwater is nestled deep within a tranquil Appalachian oak forest. The beauty of the wilderness is enhanced by the Bear Run stream that cascades over ledges of Pottsville sandstone, creating picturesque waterfalls. As you approach, you can hear the falling water before you see the house. Fallingwater is a multi-sensory experience.

The wealthy owner of Kaufmann’s Department Store in Pittsburgh, Edgar Kaufmann (1885-1955) and his wife Liliane (1889-1952) were attracted to this rustic getaway, located in the mountains southeast of Pittsburgh, for its beauty and cool mountain air. In 1916, they altruistically fashioned the property as a weekend retreat, first offering it to their female employees and later extending the invitation to the men as well. At the Kaufmann’s summer camp, the air was clean, the pace was relaxed, and there were opportunities for hiking, swimming, fishing, and horseback riding.

In the 1930s, with the Great Depression severely decreasing use of the retreat by his employees, Kaufmann began to consider other uses for the property. Dedicated to early principles of land conservation, he was committed to keeping the primal Appalachian splendor of the land intact. But he was open to new aesthetic ideas, too. His son, Edgar Kaufmann jr., introduced his father to architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s revolutionary ideas. Wright’s concept of “organic architecture,” harnessing local materials to create modern buildings in harmony with the natural landscape, deeply appealed to Kaufmann. In 1934, he commissioned Wright to build his family a weekend vacation house showcasing the view of a particularly beautiful thirty-foot waterfall.

Kaufman pictured his new house facing the waterfall, so Wright’s proposal came as a surprise: he placed the house immediately above the falls, with decks cantilevered from a rock ledge and the stream’s water perpetually falling underneath the residence. In Wright’s vision, the house wouldn’t be a place for viewing a beautiful scene—it would be an essential new component of the beautiful scene. To their credit, the Kaufmanns thoughtfully considered and then embraced Wright’s approach. Both in its interior and its exterior, Fallingwater was conceived as a part of its environment.

When the main house was completed in 1937, Fallingwater was swiftly promoted to fame by a January 1938 Time cover story. Then 70 years old, Wright capitalized on his renewed fame with vigor and imagination—there were more astonishing masterpieces in him, including New York City’s famous Guggenheim Museum.

Reflecting on his work at Fallingwater, Wright later said:

“Fallingwater is a great blessing—one of the great blessings to be experienced here on earth. I think nothing yet ever equaled the coordination, sympathetic expression of the great principle of repose where forest and steam and rock and all the elements of structure are combined so quietly that really you listen not to any noise whatsoever although the music of the stream is there. But you listen to Fallingwater the way you listen to the quiet of the country…”
Frank Lloyd Wright
Talk to the Taliesin Fellowship
May 1, 1955

Interior view of the Hatch looking toward the west terrace.
Photo by Robert P. Ruschak,
courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Notes from the Editor:  Fallingwater was the grand conclusion of my family’s Chicago vacation a couple of years ago. First, we visited the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park and enjoyed their walking tour of Wright-designed buildings in the area, including Unity Temple. Then on our trip back to New Jersey, we spent a lovely day at Fallingwater.

The editor at Fallingwater.  Photo by Lisa Price,
courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Other Recommended Sites:  There’s another acclaimed Frank Lloyd Wright building less than seven miles from Fallingwater. One of the last residential homes to be completed by Wright, Kentuck Knob complements Wright’s earlier work at Fallingwater. Perched near the summit of a 2,050-foot mountain, it simultaneously celebrates and blends into the landscape of Pennsylvania’s beautiful Laurel Highlands.

View of the living room at Fallingwater, looking south.
Photo by Robert P. Ruschak, courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Tour America's History Itinerary

Thursday:  Johnstown Flood National Memorial

© 2013 Lee Price

Friday, July 12, 2013

Moland House Historic Park

View Moland House Historic Park in a larger map

Visit our Tour Destination: Pennsylvania page to see the entire tour of the state’s Save America’s Treasures sites.

Moland House in Moland House Historic Park, Warwick Township.
Photo courtesy of the Warwick Township Historical Society.

Moland House Historic Park
1641 Old York Road
Hartsville, PA

The Treasure:  Moland House served as the administrative headquarters for George Washington and other Continental Army leaders during the 13-day Neshaminy Encampment in August 1777.

Accessibility:  The twelve-acre park is open during daylight hours year round. Guided tours of Moland House are available from 1 to 4 on the second Sunday of every month and additionally on the fourth Sunday from 1 to 4 between April and October.

Background:  The Continental Army arrived in Warwick Township, at the intersection of York and Bristol Roads in Bucks County, on August 10, 1777. There were probably no more than 500 people living in the township at the time, but it was a settled area with a church, a tavern, a mill, and ready access to fresh water thanks to the Neshaminy Creek. The local residents, primarily Scotch-Irish, were natural supporters of the struggle for independence.

The Council-of-War Room at Moland House.
Photo courtesy of the Warwick Township Historical Society.
In one day, approximately 11,000 Continental and militia soldiers arrived in town, swelling the population by more than 2,000%.  The troops came from Morristown, New Jersey, where they had been keeping tabs on the British troops in New York under the leadership of General William Howe. When Howe’s troops sailed south, Washington and the Continental Army followed by land, unsure of where the British troops would choose to strike next. They took a holding position north of Philadelphia, waiting to hear if an attack on the city was imminent. Warwick Township was identified as a discreet location to await solid information.

Washington and his staff moved into Moland House, almost certainly the finest residence in the area. A substantial stone farmhouse, Moland House was built by John Moland in the mid-1700s. John Moland was a well-respected lawyer who appears to have worked in both Philadelphia and Bucks County. He died in 1761, leaving a widow and five children. While it would have been inconvenient to have her house at the center of all the military activity, Catherine Moland probably appreciated any reimbursements that Washington provided (records exist showing settled bills for food and furniture, as well as a final cleaning of her kitchen).

The Neshaminy Encampment, as it is known, came between the Crossing of the Delaware and Battle of New York in late 1776 and the looming Battle of Germantown in October (followed by the famous winter encampment at Valley Forge). Nine days into the 13-day Neshaminy Encampment, the Marquis de Lafayette arrived on the scene and joined the leaders of the Continental Army in their deliberations at Moland House. According to legend (and no facts appear to contradict it), Betsy Ross’ “Stars and Stripes” flag may have been unfurled for the first time as the troops left Warwick Township on August 23, heading down York Road toward Philadelphia.

Today, the Warwick Township Historical Society manages the historic home and surrounding park for Warwick Township. They host frequent special events and annual reenactments of the Neshaminy Encampment, as well as guided tours of the historic house.

As seen here, Moland House fell on hard times in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s.
In 1996, Warwick Township received ownership of the abandoned house.  The
following year, they entered into a management agreement with the Warwick
Township Historical Society to restore, maintain, and operate the property.
Photo courtesy of the Warwick Township Historical Society.

In 2002, Save America's Treasures contributed funding to
support the restoration of the historic Moland House.
Photo courtesy of the Warwick Township Historical Society.

Other Recommended Sites:  In nearby Warminster, you can visit Historic Craven Hall, a stately Federal/Greek Revival Home. The grounds of Craven Hall also host the John Fitch Steamboat Museum which celebrates Fitch’s invention of the first commercial steamboat, which made its maiden trips on the Delaware River in the summer of 1790.

George Washington's office during the Neshaminy Encampment at Moland House.
Photo courtesy of the Warwick Township Historical Society.

Tour America's Treasures Itinerary
Thursday:  Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

© 2013 Lee Price

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gettysburg National Military Park

View Gettysburg National Military Park in a larger map

Visit our Tour Destination: Pennsylvania page to see the entire tour of the state’s Save America’s Treasures sites.

Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.
Photo courtesy of Gettysburg National Military Park.

Gettysburg National Military Park
Museum and Visitor Center
1195 Baltimore Pike (Route 97)
Gettysburg, PA

Gettysburg  (site of the Gettysburg Foundation)

The Treasure:  The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center preserves approximately 300,000 artifacts and 700,000 archival documents that bear witness to the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, and a century-and-a-half of reflections and commemorations. 

Accessibility:  The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. from April through October and from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. from November through March.  The Museum and Visitor Center is open daily from 8 to 6 from April through October and 8 to 5 from November through March.

Background:  “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”
Abraham Lincoln
The Gettysburg Address
delivered on November 19, 1863

Ranger program at Devil's Den.
Photo courtesy of Gettysburg National Military Park.
Lincoln went on to say that the ground of Gettysburg was hallowed not by his words but by the men who fought here. Strolling through the nearly 6,000-acre park today, perhaps on one of the informative ranger guided programs, it can sometimes be difficult to imagine war visiting this now-bucolic landscape of fields, pastures, orchards, and woodlots. People come here to reflect upon a turning point in the country’s history, a nation’s destiny pivoting upon the single bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil. With Confederate troops under the leadership of General Robert E. Lee and Army of the Potomac troops under General George Meade, more than 160,000 men clashed here. Nearly a third of them—51,000—died here.

While the scope of the Battle of Gettysburg can best be appreciated by walking the park grounds, hundreds of individual stories are evoked by the artifacts displayed at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. These artifacts offer a tangible link to the lives of the soldiers. Each piece has a story to tell. Someone wore this uniform, played this bugle, read this letter, drank from this cup, and shot this gun. Robert E. Lee sat at this camp desk. A soldier carried this pocket-size Manual of the Christian Soldier, and he died when a bullet passed clean through it. You can see the bullet hole.

For many years, Gettysburg’s visitor center was located on Cemetery Ridge, the famous site of Pickett’s Charge, a last-gasp Confederate infantry assault on the third day of battle. With the donation of 50 acres neighboring the park in 2000, the Gettysburg Foundation and the National Park Service were able to build a new center, enabling them to return the original Cemetery Ridge site to park land, more appropriate for interpretation and commemoration. In 2008, the new Museum and Visitor Center opened, with nearly double the amount of museum exhibition space than previously available.

John Brown's cell door.
Photo courtesy of
Gettysburg National
Military Park.
Save America’s Treasures funding contributed to the conservation and rehousing of many of the artifacts now displayed in the exhibition areas. It is one of the country’s great Civil War collections. The core of it dates back to a collection that began all the way back in 1863 when 16-year-old John Rosensteel began picking up interesting items, instituting a family tradition of collecting Gettysburg artifacts. Later bequeathed to the National Park Service, the George Rosensteel Collection continues to be the center piece of the museum.

The exhibits at the Museum and Visitor Center interpret the Battle of Gettysburg from many perspectives, including the origins of the conflict. A door from the Harpers Ferry prison cell where John Brown served time during his trial is among the most popular artifacts. It is a potent reminder of the many tensions that once enflamed the country, as incident after incident led inexorably to civil war.

Notes from the Editor:  This blog entry posted on July 3, 2013, as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the third and final day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Other Recommended Sites:  From the Museum and Visitor Center, shuttle buses are available to the neighboring Eisenhower National Historic Site, the home and farm of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Temporary entrenchments erected by Federal troops on Gettysburg's
Little Round Top, with Big Round Top in the distance.
Photographed in July 1863 by Timothy H. O'Sullivan,
from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Tour America's History Itinerary
Tuesday:  Moland House

© 2013 Lee Price