A House for the Masses That’s Perfectly Unique: Kentuck Knob

“[Kentuck Knob]…is of a spectacular beauty that never palls whatever the season and whatever the gap between visits, whether one month or ten minutes.” — Lord Peter Palumbo

Kentuck Knob began in 1953 when the Hagans, owners of a major dairy company in Western Pennsylvania, purchased 80 acres of mountain land east of their native Uniontown, PA. As friends of the Kaufmanns, owners of nearby Fallingwater on Bear Run, the Hagans asked their architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, then 86 years old, to design a deluxe Usonian home for them. The house was completed in 1956, and the Hagans lived at Kentuck Knob for almost 30 years.

Kentuck Knob is a house with no 90-degree corners.

Designed on a hexagonal module, Kentuck Knob is a one-story Usonian house. Usonian, meaning affordable for the average American, was a signature design of Wright. Both dramatic and serene, the house, situated just below the crest of the hill, appears almost part of the mountain itself.

The tile “signature” of Frank Lloyd Wright. According to the docent, this tile cost the Hagans, the original owners, an extra $1600. Other information I located while researching this post indicated that Wright only provided these signature tiles on houses he approved of. This tile is on the right hand side of the front door (facing the door).

“The house of moderate cost is not only America’s major architectural problem but the problem most difficult for her major architects,” said Wright. This inspired him to design the Usonian home, the concept of an affordable home to serve the masses, and a home that is uniquely American.

Kentuck Knob represents a refinement of the many principles of organic architecture Wright explored throughout his long career. In it, as well, you can find a hint of his cantilevering inspiration at Fallingwater, with cantilevered roof extending beyond the outer walls of the home and other details.

The house tour takes guests through the interior and exterior of the home and provides an insight into one of Wright’s most unique Usonian homes. During the tour, you will learn about the Hagans, Wright and his vision for the home. After the tour, guests can explore the grounds and experience the magnificent view of the Youghiogheny River Gorge.

It was this view that caused the Hagans to purchase the property to begin with. Ironically, although they expected Wright to position the home to take advantage of the view, they should have known better: the Caufmans had held the same expectations, until Wright put Fallingwater ON TOP OF a waterfall. At first, the Hagans were a little disappointed that the house was placed not just on top of, but IN the hill, incorporating it into the landscape.

One of Wright’s cool design features was the series of hexagonal skylights that cast an ever-moving pattern on the terrace below. These re-affirm the hexagonal theme throughout the home.

Today, the interior reflects the taste and personalities of the current owners, Hayat and Peter Palumbo, who have filled it with photographs of their family and friends, as well as priceless art and artifacts. Like most other Wright homes, however, there are many built-ins, and the furntiture in the home is almost exclusively Wright-designed. In addition, Palumbo is an avid collector of Wright-designed furniture, and in the home are several chairs from all over the world that were Wright-designed.

Here you can see how the house is set into the hill, connecting it to the landscape.

How Palumbo came to own Kentuck Knob is itself an interesting story. In 1985, Peter Palumbo visited Fallingwater for the first time. During that visit, he was told about the only other home in Pennsylvania designed by Wright was located just 6 miles away, and happened to be for sale.

Berlin Wall Section, East Germany, acquired in 1990

He went to see the home, fell in love with it, and purchased it a mere 6 weeks later. He married his wife Hayat, in 1986, and they have spent time at Kentuck Knob every year since.

The Palumbos have filled the home and grounds with their collection of art which is on display for visitors and includes artifacts from all over the world. They, and the Hagans before them, have left the 1950s-era kitchen intact, with the exception of the addition of a modern dishwasher.

The beautiful woodlands and grounds at Kentuck Knob host a remarkable sculpture collection by modern artists. Some 30 sculptures are placed in the landscape around the house and along the Woodland Walking Trail to the Visitor Center.

Know before you go: Please note that children must be 6 years of age or older to tour the house. Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. No babies or infants are permitted on any tours.

Getting there: 723 Kentuck Road, Chalk Hill, PA 15421

Hours: Check the website below for tour availability.

Website: http://kentuckknob.com/

Apple Core, Claes Oldenburg, 1990

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Room, Andy Goldsworthy, 1992

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Floodstones Cairn, Andy Goldsworthy, 1991-2003