The Water Frame

The Water Frame

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In 1762, Richard Arkwright, a wig-maker from Preston, heard about the attempts being made to produce new machines for the textile industry. Arkwright met John Kay, a clockmaker from Warrington, who had been busy for some time trying to produce a new spinning-machine with another man, Thomas Highs. Kay and Highs had run out of money and had been forced to abandon the project.

Richard Arkwright was impressed by John Kay and offered to employ him to make this new machine. Arkwright also recruited other local craftsman to help, and it was not long before the team produced the Spinning-Frame. Arkwright's machine involved three sets of paired rollers that turned at different speeds. While these rollers produced yarn of the correct thickness, a set of spindles twisted the fibres firmly together. The machine was able to produce a thread that was far stronger than that made by the Spinning-Jenny produced by James Hargreaves.

The Spinning-Frame was too large to be operated by hand and so Richard Arkwright had to find another method of working his machine. In 1771 he set up a large factory next to the River Derwent in Cromford, Derbyshire. Arkwright's machine now became known as the Water-Frame.

Safe Passages

In fog or deep night, a lighthouse beam warns ships away from shoals and offers them a path to safety. Because the exact locations of lighthouses are marked on charts, the lights can help mariners fix their own locations. Lightships anchored in a harbor or channel serve the same purpose by marking shallow water or other underwater dangers.

Snag boats and dredges keep waterways open to navigation. Because there are always new obstructions like fallen trees in rivers, or fresh flows of silt clogging harbors, these workboats are rarely idle.

The device reduced the amount of work needed to produce yarn, with a worker able to work eight or more spools at once. This grew to 120 as technology advanced.

The spinning frame or water frame was developed by Richard Arkwright who along with two partners patented it in 1769. The design was partly based on a spinning machine built for Thomas High by clock maker John Kay, who was hired by Arkwright. For each spindle, the water frame used a series of four pairs of rollers, each operating at a successively higher rotating speed to draw out the fiber, which was then twisted by the spindle. The roller spacing was slightly longer than the fiber length. Closer spacing caused the fibers to break while further spacing caused uneven thread. The top rollers were leather-covered and loading on them was applied by a weight that kept the twist from backing up before the rollers. The bottom rollers were wood and metal, with fluting along the length. The water frame was able to produce a hard, medium count thread suitable for warp, finally allowing 100% cotton cloth to be made in Britain. A horse powered the first factory to use the spinning frame. Arkwright and his partners used water power at a factory in Cromford, Derbyshire in 1771, giving the invention its name.

Model of a water frame in the Historical Museum in Wuppertal

Richard Arkwright is credited with a list of inventions, but these were actually developed by such people as Thomas Highs and John Kay. Arkwright nurtured the inventors, patented the ideas, financed the initiatives, and protected the machines. He created the cotton mill, which brought the production processes together in a factory, and he developed the use of power—first horse power and then water power—which made cotton manufacture a mechanized industry.

Samuel Crompton’s spinning mule, introduced in 1779, was a combination of the spinning jenny and the water frame. The spindles were placed on a carriage that went through an operational sequence during which the rollers stopped while the carriage moved away from the drawing roller to finish drawing out the fibers as the spindles started rotating. Crompton’s mule was able to produce finer thread than hand spinning at a lower cost. Mule spun thread was of suitable strength to be used as warp and finally allowed Britain to produce good-quality calico cloth.

The only surviving example of a spinning mule built by the inventor Samuel Crompton The spinning mule spins textile fibers into yarn by an intermittent process. In the draw stroke, the roving is pulled through rollers and twisted. On the return it is wrapped onto the spindle.

Realizing that the expiration of the Arkwright patent would greatly increase the supply of spun cotton and lead to a shortage of weavers, Edmund Cartwright developed a vertical power loom which he patented in 1785. Cartwright’s loom design had several flaws, including thread breakage. Samuel Horrocks patented a fairly successful loom in 1813 it was improved by Richard Roberts in 1822, and these were produced in large numbers by Roberts, Hill & Co.

The textile industry was also to benefit from other developments of the period. As early as 1691, Thomas Savery made a vacuum steam engine. His design, which was unsafe, was improved by Thomas Newcomen in 1698. In 1765, James Watt further modified Newcomen’s engine to design an external condenser steam engine. Watt continued to make improvements on his design, producing a separate condenser engine in 1774 and a rotating separate condensing engine in 1781. Watt formed a partnership with a businessman Matthew Boulton and together they manufactured steam engines that could be used by industry.

Water & Steam Power Industrial Revolution

With the increase in invention more machinery and the need for more power the industrial revolution brought a new method of power Water & steam.

Before 1700, industry was run predominantly by human and animal power, Farmers in the field and animals assisting them with the daily rigours of work. There was also that from nature in the shape of wind and water. As this demand increases water became one of most important powers and thus the driving force behind the industrial revolution.

The inventions at the beginning of the industrial revolution most notably the Spinning Jenny, the Water frame & the Spinning mule all required some level of power to function. This led to the discover of water power and of course steam power which later followed with the invention of the steam engine.

Water Power Industrial Revolution

Water was used in conjunction with the Water frame invention by Richard Arkwright to power the whole production cycle in large factories. Giant water wheels would sit next to the factory and drive production through the flowing over water over the machine. The water would be powered downstream in a river to turn the machinery. It is suggested that water power was nothing new and it had been in use for approximately 2000 years yet the way factories used water to increase the production line was the change.

Coupled with the inventions of the industrial revolution the water wheels could power machines to streamline the textile processes. Power to sawmills allowed for the carving of lumber logs effortlessly and the grinding of grain flour could be simplified through power to Grist Mills. Water wheels in conjunction with the new inventions allowed for this.

Water power relied on great weather conditions and relied upon the building of a factory next to a river. Low rainfall and drought in the summer or ice in the winter could stop them turning and seize production speeds significantly. Furthermore the damming of the river meant that other uses of the river including fishing and leisure were often compromised and interfered with.

The Isle of man still has a huge water wheel you can actually visit. This is at Laxey within the Isle of Man. It was built in 1854 and is a huge 22 metres across and it’s prime use was to pump water to the nearby lead mine. It’s estimated the wheel could lift 1,000 litres a minute.

Steam Power Industrial Revolution:

Steam power again was nothing new however key inventions and it’s crowning moments came to fruition within the industrial revolution. The devices previously were expensive and extremely limited however at the beginning of the Industrial revolution came a practical element to the inventions.

The premise was simple. Boiling water was used to create a mechanical motion and was the driving force behind a number of inventions including of course the steam engine train. It’s argued that steam was one of the most important aspects of the Industrial revolution.

The steam engines were extremely popular within the mining industry but began to be used in a number of industries throughout the revolution. The benefits of the steam process over water was that it didn’t vary by season like water power. It could also be located anywhere meaning factories didn’t need to be close to a water source for production to be at it’s peak. The introduction of steam power was a vital breakthrough in terms of productivity and efficiency and by 1800 there were approximately 1,250 steam engines running throughout Britain. Not to mention the adoption of this method throughout Europe and North America.

Steam engines are a great example how industrialisation led to changes across all areas. The use of steam became popular within transport and these technological advances are credited to the industrial revolution and the change of attitude brought by this period.

Both steam and water played an essential role in the productivity and output of factories throughout the industrial revolution. It’s often said that these two power sources and the inventions they powered were the driving force behind the shift from the domestic system to the factory driven environments we saw throughout this key period.


Using lasers and orbital cameras to digitally scan the exterior and interior of Fallingwater aids in future preservation projects and will be used to develop a virtual file cabinet of historic data and images.

Preserving Fallingwater has been ongoing almost since its completion. From daily maintenance and housekeeping tasks to larger efforts to protect the house, the care of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece is paramount to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy as it continues the important practice of monitoring and preserving Fallingwater for future generations. Fallingwater is a composition of varied materials—stone, concrete, steel, glass, and wood—each imbued with qualities that celebrated what Wright termed “organic architecture.” Like organic elements in nature, these materials have shown signs of deterioration over the past eighty years, due in large part to their exposure to a range of climate conditions, especially humidity and sunlight that have impacted the collections and the severe freeze-thaw conditions of southwest Pennsylvania and water infiltration that affect the structural materials. The preservation of Fallingwater is ongoing, and one reason visitors are asked to refrain from touching objects and furnishings in the house.

Reinforced Concrete

The impact of dramatic freeze-thaw conditions often lead to spalling, or falling away, of Fallingwater’s concrete exterior. Preservation technicians replace a rolled roof edge in the summer of 2018.

Fallingwater provided Frank Lloyd Wright with an opportunity to utilize a modern material with great structural capabilities that could be extended into dramatic cantilevered terraces, stepped and curved to provide a canopy walkway, and smoothly shaped to provide interest to stairs, eaves, and ceilings. Yet, reinforced concrete also provides the most preservation challenges to the house, and as early as the 1950s portions of the reinforced concrete fabric of the house were being reconstructed. The composition of the concrete used at Fallingwater for the walls was a mixture of cement, sand, and rounded river gravel. Within the concrete, steel reinforcements, long rods of different diameters, were added, laid in a crossed formation or bent to provide additional strength. The rounded tops of parapets were formed of a cement and sand blend, applied by hand after the wall had cured. This “cold joint,” where the two applications meet, has resulted in long irregular cracking that also served as an entrance point for water to seep between the concrete walls and its finish stucco coat.

The same mix of concrete was used for the house’s trellises, long expanses suspended over the drive or cantilevered over terraces. The east trellis, off of the living room, which collapsed in 1953, 1973, and 1982 due to falling tree limbs, was last rebuilt using post-tensioned thread bars under the direction of Taliesin Associated Architects. More recently, in 2012, a beam of the drive’s trellis was replaced due to structural failing, and a section retained for study, should it be necessary in the future.

The replacement of all roofing surfaces in 1987 and 1988 under the direction of LD Astorino and Associates necessitated the recasting of several curved ends and corners of the concrete eaves. In 1990 a comprehensive analysis of the concrete and stone masonry was conducted by Wank Adams Slavin Associates in 1990. That same firm submitted a two-volume preservation master plan for Fallingwater in 1999 which included recommendations for the care and treatment of concrete as well as the other building materials used in the house.

The most invasive preservation action occurred during the years 2001 and 2002 when a structural strengthening of the living room cantilevers was conducted. From the time of their moving in to 1955, the Kaufmanns documented the deflection, or downward tilting, of the terraces to be approximately four inches. In 1994, a University of Virginia graduate student’s thesis research concluded that the terraces had deflected further, one to almost seven inches from its original position. This sparked a fuller investigation of the cantilevers by Robert A. Silman Associates, and crack meters and tilt meters were applied a year later to the terraces to record any changes. Their resulting five-volume structural analysis report informed much of the restoration that occurred from 1998 to 2002.

The analysis suggested that the concrete and steel of the terraces was overstressed due to errors in the design of their reinforcement, which meant they could no longer function as designed. The first step taken in halting the deflection was to install shoring and a steel support beam beneath the living room terraces. This was followed by the removal of the flagstone floor from the living room and the subfloor materials in order to expose the concrete beams beneath. A post-tensioning cable system was employed, where bundles of high strength steel cable were first anchored into the concrete piers beneath the house and then attached to the sides of three of the four the major reinforced concrete beams located in the living room and tightened. This provided a support system that stopped the terraces from deflecting further and was all but invisible once the floor was replaced.

In 2011 cracks appeared in the reinforced concrete piers under the house, and so in 2013 a series of crack and tilt meters was installed to gauge the deflection, if any, of the terraces. Twelve crack meters monitored the master bedroom terrace and the concrete piers underneath the house, while four tilt meters affixed to the east terrace and west terrace of the living room and the master bedroom terrace monitored any vertical changes. A decade after the post-tensioning system was mounted, the terraces have only shown movement to approximately 1/100th of an inch. Fallingwater is continued to be monitored on a semi-annual basis.

Stone Masonry

Preservation efforts inside the guest house pool involved an inspection and eventual replacement of steel supports for the stone steps leading into the water.

Stone is perhaps the most symbolic of the materials used at Fallingwater. Pottsville sandstone was acquired from a nearby quarry to use in building walls, and laid in a rough, shifting manner to imitate the natural stone ledges found jutting out along Bear Run. Projecting beyond the line of the mortar as much as three or four inches, this technique was meant to help unify the house to its site, and the effect is one of making it appear that Fallingwater is growing out of its landscape. A recently acquired series of fifty photographs taken in 1936 and 1937 show the assembly of stone and the manpower needed to erect the walls, and help in understanding the way in which the house rose.

A team of Fallingwater’s preservation maintenance technicians resets large capstones following repairs to the wall of the plunge pool in 2017.

From a preservation standpoint, the arrangement of the stone and the deep crevices between each present opportunities for water to pool or seep into the walls, leading to damage on interior ceiling and wall surfaces. The ledges of each row of stone have small depressions within which water accumulates, and permits for the accumulation of snow that, once melted, is drawn into the joints of the walls. The mortar, too, can be responsible as any gaps between it and the stone will lead to hairline cracks and separations that with seasonal freezing and thawing often become more problematic over time.

For horizontal surfaces, flagstone was used throughout to provide seamless transitions between the exterior and interior. These relatively thin stones, averaging around two inches in thickness, were hand laid and assembled freeform across the floors, terraces, and stairs of the house. They fit snugly against the boulder of the living room hearth, and when used on the interior are waxed to appear wet like the stream bottom of Bear Run. When the living room floor was removed in 2001 to install the post-tension cable system, 557 stones were individually numbered, stored safely, and later reassembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

A thorough cleaning of the exterior stone walls is performed periodically, the most expansive undertaken between 1989 and 1992 under the direction of Wank Adams Slavin Associates. In 2012, two sides of the chimney mass were cleaned to remove salt build-up, staining, and biological growth. Removal of moss on the capstones running along the tops of the roof parapet, a key indicator of water infiltration, is part of routine preservation maintenance and various areas of the house are repointed as needed as part of the ongoing care of the masonry.


Glass is an important element of Fallingwater’s design, acting as a protective barrier between indoors and outdoors, but also as a framework to the nature beyond. Frank Lloyd Wright specified quarter-inch thick polished Pittsburgh Plate Glass for the house and it was used in all windows, the full-height doors leading to the terraces, and in horizontal applications such as skylights and the telescoping hatch doors leading to the stream below the living room.

It also plays a role in illustrating the engineering properties of the house’s cantilevered design where glass meets glass to create an “invisible” corner window. Wright uses this technique to show there is no need for the traditional vertical supports at the corners of his rooms, and the absence of a corner mullion provides an uninterrupted, if not dramatic, view to the outdoors. From the exterior, especially when the house is lit at night, the glass seems to disappear entirely and enhancing the effect of Fallingwater as a “lantern in the forest.”

In 1987, the original window glass was replaced with a laminated ultraviolet light filtering glass that helps to protect the interiors, furnishings, and artwork from harmful sunlight. In 2010, many windows began to show signs of delamination, or cloudiness, especially evident around their frames, a main indicator of the glass’s failure. Fallingwater’s Window Legacy Fund was established soon after to create an endowment that provides for continued care and replacement of the window and door glass, and consequently its collections.


The use of steel at Fallingwater is both invisible and everywhere apparent. Reinforcing bars used within the concrete provide tensile strength , and are inserted in varying ways into the liquid material as it is formed. In walls and floors, it is arranged as a woven mesh while in the covered canopy of the stairs to the guest house, it is laid as a series of concentric arcs. Repairing concrete will also often mean exposing or working around embedded reinforcing bars, in some cases cutting through them, which can add difficulty to a preservation project. If exposed, the bars are coated with a noncorrosive agent to keep them from rusting within the new concrete.

The windows and door frames at Fallingwater are also made of steel, and were specified by Frank Lloyd Wright to be manufactured by Hope’s Windows of Jamestown, New York. At a time when sashes were traditionally made of wood, the steel was a relatively new material for Wright, who in the January 1938 issue of Architectural Forum wrote, “Steel sash came within reach…for the first time.” The manufacturing process, rolling steel into Z or T shapes to ease fabrication, allowed for a variety of special shapes. Originally painted “Cherokee” red, the name for a variety of earthy red hues preferred by Wright over his career, the color deepened with subsequent near-matches by other manufacturers, but returned to Wright’s specification by Edgar Kaufmann, jr. in 1976.

In 2000, the original but somewhat deteriorating steel sash windows and doors were restored, with many layers of paint removed, corroded portions replaced, and the painted finish reapplied. In 2012, a second large-scale restoration of the steel sash was conducted on a selection of windows and doors throughout the house, and this preservation continues to be part of Fallingwater’s annual maintenance plan.

Specialty Finishes

The use of cork tiles on the floors and walls in Fallingwater’s six bathrooms was at Edgar Kaufmann jr.’s suggestion, feeling that Frank Lloyd Wright’s specified stone floors would be too cold when leaving the shower. The natural color of cork, a tree bark product, related well to the palette of materials Wright specified overall, and had the added acoustic benefit, warmth, and softness underfoot. When used as a flooring material, the cork tiles were hand waxed, giving them a shiny finish that supplemented their natural ability to repel water.

As a wallcovering, the cork was left unwaxed, its natural state and color provided visual interest though it began to show water damage in locations were water leaks persist. . The effects of water damage on the cork is still evident in the guest bathroom of the main house, yet the bath in the guest house was restored in 2007 with the concrete wall surface renewed and repainted before new cork was applied. The variety of bathroom configurations in the house was such that cork covered part or all of the walls and was sometimes used as flooring within the shower stall.

The largest room without flagstone flooring is the kitchen, where a nine-by-nine inch asbestos tiling product was specified for ease of maintenance and comfort for the Kaufmanns’ cook. In 1988, after nearly fifty years of wear, the kitchen flooring was replaced with a solid vinyl product, cut to size and custom colored to match the “Cherokee” red of the original. A second replacement, in 2013, gave the floor a fresher appearance and closely resembles the original in size and color.


Fallingwater’s stucco-covered concrete has always been painted, its original light ochre color specified by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1937. Despite the architect’s proclamation in the January 1938 issue of Architectural Forum that the rounded roof edges would keep the concrete walls clean by allowing water to roll off, the paint finish soiled often. Organic debris from overhanging trees, collecting and degrading on the concrete surfaces, also produced prime conditions for encouraging fungi along the roof joints.

Peeling paint was also becoming an issue as the house aged, with so many layers applied that the walls appeared as if the stucco had loosened. Between 1937 and 1959, the house had been repainted at least six times, using a variety of paint manufacturer products, and in 1978 the house was sandblasted to remove all of the paint before the concrete was waterproofed and covered with an acrylic-based paint coating.

The exterior paint continued to fail, particularly on the building’s vertical surfaces. Between 2001 and 2006, Fallingwater evaluated over 120 exterior paint test panels produced by four different manufacturers in applications on and near the guest house before selecting specially colored ochre tinted exterior flat paint product developed by PPG Paints. Like any house, the interior and exterior concrete surfaces of Fallingwater are repainted periodically.

Furniture Conservation

Wood conservation efforts, such as touching up finishes on the black walnut veneer of the guest house desk, occur each winter.

The nearly 170 built-in and freestanding wood furnishings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for Fallingwater share many of the characteristics of the house itself. Fabricated of North Carolina black walnut, the tables, shelving, desks, and banquette seats feature cantilevered horizontal elements, their edges and corners rounded to soften the line and suggest the rounds edges of the concrete parapets. Door fronts and table top veneers contain a light colored band of sapwood within the grain field to give them movement and variety.

In 1986, conservation of Fallingwater’s wood furnishings was undertaken with funds provided by the Getty Grant Program and the National Endowment for the Arts, with later support from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. The work entailed cleaning woodwork, making small repairs, and addressing structural concerns where water damage or deterioration had occurred. During this time, a large section of the second floor hall cabinets was removed and replicated. The damaged piece, stored away for reference use by the conservation team, still provides insight into the construction methods used to realize Wright’s designs.

The uneven quality of previous restoration treatments was corrected and since the completion of that intensive conservation effort, general woodwork cleaning and repairs to a selection of furniture has been part of Fallingwater’s annual winter maintenance program. A standardized series of conservation treatments was established by conservators Thom Gentle and Victoria Jefferies, in many cases improving upon restoration methods used in the past, and continues under the direction of Sean Fisher of Robert Mussey Associates. Year-round, Fallingwater’s housekeeping team maintains the general condition of the wood furniture, with light dusting the only method used to maintain its finish.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater

Perched above a mountain cataract on a rocky hillside deep in the rugged forest of Southwestern Pennsylvania, some 90 minutes from Pittsburgh, is America’s most famous house. The commission for Fallingwater was a personal milestone for the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, since it clearly marked a turning point in his career. After this late-career triumph, the sixty-seven year old would go on to create a series of highly original designs that would validate his claim as “The world’s greatest architect.”

“The greatest architect of the nineteenth-century” —Philip Johnson

The mid-1930s were among the darkest years for architecture and architects in American history the country’s financial system had collapsed with the failure of hundreds of banks. Almost no private homes were built. Many of the architectural projects started during the boom of the late 1920s were halted for lack of funds. Now in his sixties, Wright and his new wife Olgivanna were struggling to keep Taliesin, his Wisconsin home and studio, out of foreclosure. Worse still, his peers were beginning to regard Wright as an irrelevant anachronism whose time had passed.

In 1932 Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson opened the “Modern Architecture: International Exhibition” at the newly founded Museum of Modern Art in New York and simultaneously published the book International Style. This was, perhaps, the most influential architectural exhibit ever mounted in the United States and the book became a manifesto for modern architecture and would profoundly affect almost every major architectural project worldwide for the next 30 years. It focused on the work of four great “European functionalists” Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and J.J.P. Oud. Wright was largely snubbed.

Hitchcock had praise for his early work, for its “many innovations,” but he condemned Wright for a “[l]ack of continuity in his development and his unwillingness to absorb the innovations of his contemporaries and his juniors in Europe.” Hitchcock insulted Wright further by characterizing him as “a rebel by temperament… [who] refused even the discipline of his own theories.” The catalogue calls Wright a “half-modern” throwback, one of the “last representatives of Romanticism.” Wright responded by denigrating European Modernism as an “evil crusade,” a manifestation of “totalitarianism.”

A fellowship and a commission

The Wrights devised an architectural apprenticeship program that came to be known as the “fellowship.” And among the first candidates was Edgar Kaufmann Jr. who became enamored with Wright after reading his biography. Kaufmann was the son of Pittsburgh department store tycoon Edgar Kaufmann Sr. whose thirteen story downtown Pittsburgh emporium was reported to be the largest in the world. Kaufmann senior was no stranger to architectural pursuits—he was involved in numerous public projects and built several stores and homes. Kaufmann let Wright know that he had several civic architectural projects in mind for him. He and his wife Liliane were invited to Taliesin and were duly impressed.

Fallingwater floorplan (diagram: Arsenalbubs, CC0 1.0)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater, steps to stream (Edgar J. Kaufmann House), Bear Run, Pennsylvania (photo: Daderot, CC0 1.0)

There are varying accounts regarding the circumstances that brought Kaufmann to offer Wright a chance to design a “weekend home” in the country but we know that Wright made his first trip to the site on Bear Run, Pennsylvania in December, 1934. Wright’s apprentice Donald Hoppen has spoken of Wright’s “uncanny sense of…genius loci” 1 (Latin for “spirit of the place”) and from the very beginning, the architect rejected a site that presented a conventional view of the waterfall instead, he audaciously offered to make the house part of it, stating that the “visit to the waterfall in the woods stays with me and a domicile takes shape in my mind to the music of the stream.” The South-southeast orientation gives the illusion that the stream flows, not alongside the house, but through it.

Fastest draw in the Midwest

Perhaps the most famous tale to come out of the lore of Fallingwater is the improbable story that Wright, after receiving the commission procrastinated for nine months until he was forced to draw up the complete plans while his patron was driving the 140 miles from Milwaukee to Taliesin. However, the essential story is validated by several witnesses. Apprentice Edgar Taffel recalled that after talking with Kaufmann on the phone, Wright “briskly emerged from his office…sat down at the table set with the plot plan and started to draw…The design just poured out of him. ‘Liliane and E.J. will have tea on the balcony…they’ll cross the bridge to walk in the woods…’ Pencils being used up as fast as we could sharpen them….Erasures, overdrawing, modifying. Flipping sheets back and forth. Then, the bold title across the bottom ‘Fallingwater.’ A house has to have a name.” 2 There seems to be agreement that the whole process took about two hours.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater (Edgar J. Kaufmann House), Mill Run, Pennsylvania, 1935, Color pencil on tracing paper, 15-3/8 x 27-1/4″ © The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Organic architecture

Edgar Kaufmann Jr. pointed out that Wright’s famous concept of “Organic Architecture” stems from his Transcendentalist background. The belief that human life is part of nature. Wright even incorporated a rock outcropping that projected above the living room floor into his massive central hearth, further uniting the house with the earth. “Can you say” Wright challenged his apprentices “when your building is complete, that the landscape is more beautiful than it was before?” 3

In his book, Fallingwater Rising: Frank Lloyd Wright, E. J. Kaufmann, and America’s Most Extraordinary House, Franklin Toker wrote that,

this delicate synthesis of nature and the built environment probably counts as the main reason why Fallingwater is such a well-loved work. The contouring of the house into cantilevered ledges responds so sympathetically to the rock strata of the stream banks that it does make Bear Run a more wondrous landscape than it had been before. 4

Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater (Edgar J. Kaufmann House), Bear Run, Pennsylvannia, 1937 (photo: Lykantrop)

Wright further emphasizes the connection with nature by liberal use of glass the house has no walls facing the falls, only a central stone core for the fireplaces and stone columns. This provides elongated vistas leading the eye out to the horizon and the woods. Vincent Scully has pointed out that this reflects “an image of Modern man caught up in constant change and flow, holding on…to whatever seems solid but no longer regarding himself as the center of the world.” 5 The architect’s creative use of “corner turning windows” without mullions causes corners to vanish. Wright even bows to nature by bending a trellis beam to accommodate a pre-existing tree.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater, detail with tree (Edgar J. Kaufmann House), 1937 (photo: Daderot, CC0 1.0)


Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer, competition entry for the Chicago Tribune Tower, 1922, perspective drawing, 22.5 x 13.3 cm, gelatin silver print sheet (Harvard Art Museums)

Although he denied it, Wright was influenced by every conceivable architectural style, but Fallingwater owes little to his previous designs (the only exceptions being perhaps the use of irregular stones that are also found on Taliesin and his interest in strong horizontal lines). At Fallingwater, he appears to be more concerned with responding to the European Modernist design that he had in part inspired—but that had since eclipsed him. In effect, he set out to beat the Europeans at their own game, using elements of their idiom. We see, for example, inspiration drawn from the balconies of Gropius’ design for the Chicago Tribune Tower competition, though instead of the stark white of the International Style, he paints his balconies a warmer, earthen tone in deference to nature and perhaps the Adobe dwellings of the American Southwest.

Fallingwater falling down?

The Kaufmanns loved Wright’s radical proposal to literally suspend the house over the waterfall. But Edgar Kaufmann Sr., ever the pragmatic business man (who had also studied engineering for a year at Yale) prudently sent a copy of Wright’s blueprints to his engineer who found the ground unstable and did not recommend that he proceed with the house. Wright was not happy with his client’s lack of faith, but permitted an increase in the number and diameter of the structure’s steel reinforcements—Kaufmann agreed to proceed. Its worth noting that the engineer’s warnings later proved valid, an issue that “haunted” Wright for the rest of his life.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Frederick C. Robie House, Historic American Buildings Survey, Cervin Robinson, Photographer, 18 August 1963, exterior from southwest, 5757 Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, Cook County, IL, 5 x 7″ (Library of Congress HABS ILL,16-CHIG,33𔃁)

Wright is famous for pushing the architectural envelope for dramatic effect. We see this is in the vast cantilevered wooden roof of Robie House in Chicago. In Fallingwater he chose ferro-concrete for his cantilevers, this use of reinforced concrete for the long suspended balconies was revolutionary. He boldly extended the balcony of the second floor master bedroom soaring six feet beyond the living room below.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater, steps to stream (Edgar J. Kaufmann House), Bear Run, Pennsylvania (photo: Daderot, CC0 1.0)

However, due to the lack of proper support, cracks began appearing in the balcony floors soon after they were poured. Over the years since, cracks have been repeatedly repaired as the cantilevers continued to sag. By 2001 some of the 15 foot cantilevers had fallen more than 7 inches. To avoid a complete collapse, an ingenious system was devised using tensioned cables to correct the problem and stabilize Wright’s masterwork.

Almost from the day of its completion, Fallingwater was celebrated around the world. The house and its architect were featured in major publications including the cover of Time Magazine. Over the years its fame has only increased. According to Franklin Toker, Fallingwater’s most important contribution to Modern Architecture is surely the “acceptance of Modern architecture itself.”

1. Donald W. Hoppen, The Seven Ages of Frank Lloyd Wright: The Creative Process, Dover Publications: New York, 1993, page 23.

2. Edgard Tafel, Years with Frank Lloyd Wright: Apprentice to Genius, Courier Dover Publications, 1979.

4. Franklin Toker, Fallingwater Rising: Frank Lloyd Wright, E. J. Kaufmann, and America’s Most Extraordinary House, Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 2003, np.

5. Meryle Secrest, Frank Lloyd Wright: A Biography, University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1992, page 168.

Recreating Historic Sea Crossings

The Kon-Tiki Expedition (1947)

Established theory holds that Polynesia was colonised via Asia some 5,500 years ago. Based on similarities between statues on Easter Island and others in Bolivia, Heyerdahl believed that there had been contact from South America. To support that claim, he sailed from Peru with five other adventurers on a raft built in native style from balsa wood, bamboo, and hemp. After 101 days and 4,300 nautical miles on the open sea they arrived in the Tuamota Islands. [Wikipedia]

Kon-Tiki Expedition (1947)

Kon-Tiki, Balsa Logs and Sail

RA-II : Crossing the Atlantic on a Reed Boat (1970)

In 1970, Heyerdahl was at it again. Proving that a reed boat of Egyptian design could reach South America. Could Aztec pyramids have been influenced by Egyptians ?

RA-II (1970)

Ra II - Reed Boat

The Brendan Voyage (Severin, 1976)

The Brendan, a 36-foot, two masted boat was built in traditional fashion of Irish ash and oak, hand-lashed together with nearly two miles (3 km) of leather thong, wrapped with 49 tanned ox hides, and sealed with wool grease. Between May 1976 and June 1977, Tim Severin and his crew sailed the Brendan 4,500 miles (7,200 km) from Ireland to Peckford Island, Newfoundland, stopping at the Hebrides and Iceland en route. [Wikipedia]

Route of the Brendan

The Brendan Leather Boat

Experiments in the Mediterranean

7,000BC) precede the Minoan civilization by more than four millennia.

Island settlement implies some navigation legs over 100km in very primitive craft. There is also evidence of repeated trade (in obsidian) between some islands and the mainland. In recent years, experimental archeologists have repeated these voyages in bith reed craft and dugout canoes.

Reed "Papyrella" (Tzalas 1988) [Ref]

Dugout Canoe "Monoxylon"
Tichy, 1995 & 1998 [Ref]

The First Mariners Projects (1998-2008)

The First Mariners Projects showed how Homo Erectus could have reached Flores in the Indonesian Archipelago 800,000 years ago. They also demonstrated how the aborigenes could have sailed (600km) from Timor to Australia 50,000 years ago.

Human migation out of Africa

Flores to Timor on Hominid Raft

The Next Step: Planks

If I have used some images that you own without sufficient credit, contact me and I will either remove them or add a reference that you are happy with.

Erie Canal’s Economic Impacts

The Erie Canal opened on October 26, 1825. A fleet of boats, led by Governor Dewitt Clinton aboard the Seneca Chief sailed from Buffalo to New York City in record time—just ten days.

The canal transformed New York City into the commercial capital it remains today. Prior to the canal’s construction, the ports of Boston, Philadelphia and New Orleans outranked New York in size.

But the construction of the Erie Canal gave New York City (via the Hudson River) direct water access to the Great Lakes and regions of the Midwest. As the gateway to these resource-rich lands, New York soon became the nation’s economic epicenter and the primary port of entry to the United States for European immigrants.

New York City’s population quadrupled between 1820 and 1850. Financing of the Erie Canal’s construction allowed the city to eclipse Philadelphia as the country’s most important banking center.

The Erie Canal also provided an economic boost to the entire United States by allowing the transport of goods at one-tenth the previous cost in less than half the previous time. By 1853, the Erie Canal carried 62 percent of all U.S. trade.

For the first time, manufactured goods such as furniture and clothing could be shipped in bulk to the frontier.

Farmers in western New York and the Midwest now had cash to purchase consumer goods, because they could more cheaply ship wheat, corn and other crops to lucrative East Coast markets.

The Erie Canal also helped to stimulate America’s nascent tourism industry. It attracted vacationers, including Europeans such as Charles Dickens. Thousands of tourists floated down the canal on excursions from New York City to Niagara Falls.


Leopold Schmidt died in 1914, just before prohibition forces triumphed in Washington and Oregon. The Olympia brewery group was then lead by Leopold's eldest son Peter. Prohibition came to Washington in Jan. 1916 - four years prior to national prohibition, yet the Schmidt family still had the two Acme plants in San Francisco where they continued to produce beer, but not Olympia Beer.

Brewing basically ceased in Washington in 1915, allowing brewers one year to deplete their inventory and dismantle their operations. However, the Schmidt family chose to carry on with a near beers called "German Brew" (at right), "Lact Dark," an Olympia Malt Extract, and an Olympia Artesian Water. They also produced a slightly sparkling apple drink called "Applju" (see ad below). It's slogan was "Drink an Apple" and they later made a heavily sparkling version they referred to as an "apple champagne." A loganberry product called "Loju" was produced in their branch brewery in Salem. Unfortunately, all fruit juice production was terminated in 1921 due to a sugar shortage caused by World War I in Europe.

With the advent of National Prohibition in 1920 the Schmidt family undertook many other business ventures, the most significant of which was their hotels. As a normal business practice many brewers had acquired saloons and hotels as exclusive outlets for their product. By the early 20's the Schmidt family controlled a large number of luxury hotels, with a presence in all of the major northwestern cities. So they decided to sell off all their inactive breweries and beverage operations (including the 1906 Tumwater Brewhouse), and concentrate on their Western Hotels chain. This would become the nucleus of the present day Westin Hotels.

They also started a bus transport business that would later become part of the Greyhound Bus Lines.

1934 letterhead

With Repeal of Prohibition in April of 1933, Peter Schmidt had only the Tumwater property and no brewery. He was faced with prospect of reacquiring the Old Brewhouse and undertaking a costly restoration and remodel. He decided instead to build a new, modern plant up on the hill above the original site. See painting below.

With Repeal also came new legislation that forbad brewers from owning "tied houses" or any business that sold beer. Consequently they had to divest themselves of the hotels and concentrate on a single brewery in Tumwater. The plant was completed, and on January 14, 1934 "Olympia Beer" was back.

They reprised their 1914 label (above left) and it remained relatively unchanged (middle). While imitation may be the highest form of flattery, I don't imagine that Olympia was flattered with the blatant copy of their label by the Utah Brewing Company of Salt Lake City, with its Olympus Beer label (right). They also had a trademark assult from the Northwest Brewing Co. and had to request an injunction preventing them from using the brand name "Olympic Club" and the slogan "It's the Beer." The injunction was granted on 31 Jan. 1933 and the subsequent appeal by Northwest failed.

In December of 1935, Olympia introduced a short-necked, 11 oz. bottle called the "stubby." It had the same capacity as the long neck but took up less room in the home refrigerator, and six-packs stacked nicely in grocery displays. Olympia was the first west coast brewery to adopt this style, and with the added advantage of being a "no return" bottle there was no deposit required. This new bottle was quickly adopted by the majority of the breweries.

Note: This isn't a "steinie." The Steinie was also an 11 oz. squat bottle, but it has a longer neck which is slightly bulbous.

Olympia Brewery painting ca.1938

Sales were strong, and the brand was soon available in all of the western states, and by 1940, Olympia had surpassed its pre-prohibition production. The company stayed solely with draft and bottled beer until 1950. In August of that year they introduced their first canned beer (shown below). The can's graphics remained unchanged until the '60s when the zip-tab was introduced - and can openers became a thing of the past.

After WWII the old brewhouse was being used by Western Metal Craft for cabinet manufacturing but were gone in the early '50s and it remained vacant. In 1964 the family repurchased the the old brewhouse and the other buildings on the water, and used them for storage.

Olympia Brewery ca.1989

Olympia Breweriana - Post Prohibition

Warning : Unscrupulous people will take images of signs use them to produce fake collectibles. The embossed sign above was used to make this fake Olympia ashtray.

Olympia produced a great number of display items and signs through the '60s & '70s, which have become popular with collectors. They did three wild life series of wall plagues (below), the first and second of which was just the heads, and the third was of full figures. They also did a wildlife series of beer mugs which surprisingly didn't have "Olympia Beer" prominently displayed on them.

Brew House today - K. Williams Collection

Today, the Old Brewhouse remains Tumwater’s best known landmark as part of Tumwater’s New Market Historic District, and is listed on the National and Washington Registers of Historic Places. After the 2016 donation of the brick tower to the City of Tumwater, tours of the complex have been restricted in the interest of safety during renovation stages. The City of Tumwater has made preservation of the historic structure and revitalization of the brewing district a priority.

Watch the video: Richard Arkwrights Water Frame (July 2022).


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