If you know who these people are, you’re either from Pittsburgh, a Fallingwater fan, or a Frank Lloyd Wright follower. Maybe even all three, like myself.
Meet the Kaufmann family. Edgar (E.J.), Liliane, and Edgar Junior. If you’ve been around Erie long enough, you probably remember that many years ago our local “Macy’s” department store was originally named “Kaufmanns.” I’ve always been fascinated by biographies because I truly believe that there’s always a great story behind any great success. And I’ve found the Kaufmann family – along with their partner in Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright – is as compelling a story of any American family minus the Kennedys.
As for Frank Lloyd Wright, all I can say is that he was a complicated and vain man. Yet he was without a doubt an absolute genius and on par with someone like Mozart. he just “saw” things in his mind and turned them into works of art that are still revered today, a century later.
My own personal journey with the Kaufmann family began a decade ago when my mother-in-law – affectionately known as The First Lady – handed me a book called “Loving Frank.” She’s been in the same book club with a group of ladies for like 400 years, and this was the last one that they had read.
I have to be completely honest: I really didn’t know who Frank Lloyd Wright was. I had heard the name in passing, but never felt the need to find out more about him.
In the end, “Loving Frank” put me on a journey to find out more about this man and his architecture. The book itself is a rather sordid story of genius, betrayal, and murder. But the seed was planted.
Before I begin my series on the Kaufmann family, I can say that while I have no education in architecture I’ve definitely become more interested in the role it plays in how certain wealthy families cement their legacies by the buildings and homes they leave behind.
Despite their wealth, the Kaufmann family had one major obstacle to overcome before they were truly considered as an elite family in Pittsburgh. And that’s where I’ll begin my series on the Kaufmann family and Fallingwater in my next post.