A Wright Day Trip to Kentuck Knob

Anyone with a passing knowledge of American icons has heard of Frank Lloyd Wright’s  Guggenheim Museum in New York City or Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.  Yet, I can almost guarantee that most people have never heard of Kentuck Knob (723 Kentuck Road, Dunbar, PA).  It’s just down the road from Fallingwater, as the crow flies, off the beaten path.  (You see, one weekend in rural Pennsylvania and I’m reverting to my country life idioms.)

Kentuck Knob panoramaIt’s a pleasant surprise for architecture buffs who travel to sites around the globe looking for the unique and extraordinary buildings which dot the global landscape.  Kentuck Knob started as one neighbor coveting his friends’ house.  Ice cream tycoons I.N. and Bernardine Hagan gave the legendary architect a budget of $60,000 and knew that financial constraints would be tossed out the window when Frank Lloyd Wright was on the job, literally molding a house into its landscape and bringing the outdoors in.  Kentuck Knob is a small, practical example of Wright’s concept of organic architecture.  As you approach through a wooded driveway, the surrounding hills appear to hug the house, the car portico rising from the land and the front door welcoming guests who can see straight through to the watery gorge and mountains beyond.  Wright put his stamp of approval on the finished project right at the front door, where a red tile bearing his initials is the perfect maker’s mark!

The property was eventually sold to Lord Peter Palumbo of England in 1985.  Lord Palumbo is an avid art collector and visitors to Kentuck Knob can observe the breadth of his collection throughout the extensive grounds and inside the home.  The Palumbos don’t use it as a private residence any longer but invite guests inside to explore Wright’s one-story hexagonal Usonian design.  Lucky brides can even host their wedding ceremony on the panoramic veranda.  Any time you can experience architecture which is as much a part of its surroundings as the landscape is a part of it, you have enjoyed a unique travel experience.  Kentuck Knob is just that, especially when the leaves of autumn highlight the ambers and red riches of its natural palette.

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A Cinematic Stroll through Edinburgh

Time for Friday Flicks through Edinburgh.  It’s a great city which has been in the news a lot lately.  So many movies have been filmed in its alleys, byways, highlands and castles that I’ve had to narrow the Top 5 list to the last twenty years:

1.  Trainspotting (1996) The cult classic launched the career of Ewan McGregor and TV’s Sherlock Holmes, Jonny Lee Miller.  And while the story is said to take place in Edinburgh, many of the scenes were shot across Scotland and London.  It’s basically the opening scene, when McGregor’s character Renton nearly gets killed on Calton Road and a subsequent run down Princes Street and Hanover Street that you get to see the real Edinburgh.

2.  Mary Reilly (1996) – an atypical role for the effervescent Julia Roberts who stars in this dark psychological thriller as a housemaid who falls in love with the infamous Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Much of the film takes place in Edinburgh, the birthplace of Jekyll and Hyde author Robert Louis Stevenson.  Mary strolls through the Cowgate and down Calton Road, easy to picture the darkness of Victorian times.

3.  Great Expectations (1999) – In this TV version of the Charles Dickens classic tale of the grass is always greener, many of the scenes were shot in Edinburgh including Cowgate. as in Mary Reilly.  Characters stroll the streets of the city past the Greyfriars Churchyard, Old College on South Bridge and Parliament Square.

4.  Cloud Atlas (2012) – the film based on the bestselling book by David Mitchell starred Tom Hanks and Halle Berry.  While scouting locations, the film’s supervising location manager said they were looking for a large monument with sweeping views.  Anyone who’s ever been to Edinburgh knows that Scott Monument fit the bill.

Do you know any other movies filmed on location in Edinburgh?  Add a comment below with the movie title and scene.

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London’s Legendary Speakeasy Club

There was a point in rock music history when four lads named John, Paul, George and Ringo wanted to come to The States. And once The Beatles got here, everyone here wanted to go to London. The grass was always greener across the pond in the music industry. Their hair was longer, the clubs were hipper and all this little girl could do was dream about getting there.

Years later, I was more eager to venture into London’s legendary nightclubs like The Marquee Club, 100 Club (100 Oxford Street) and The Speakeasy (48 Margaret Street) than I was to attend classes at university. Most of my fellow American students didn’t hunger the same way as I did to hang with Clapton or McCartney or get those moves like Jagger. I think they came with me out of a strange curiosity.

Most of the clubs were focused around Oxford Circus and The Speakeasy was no different, grabbing a chunk of prime real estate on Margaret Street. At first I was anxious, not knowing if they would even let me in the front door. There was no code word but membership was required for entry and if you didn’t have a name like Clapton or McCartney, the fee was pretty hefty. I knew some names in the inner circle to throw around and I think they took pity on my paltry efforts to fit in, granting me associate access to the darkened denizen of rockdom.

I was in. There wasn’t much to the place except a large poster of Al Capone (go figure) and a coffin at the front desk. The club was actually spartan in its decor. I remember thinking London Speakeasy Clubwhy would Clapton hang out in this dump. I think my classmates thought the same thing.

Those college friendships have long disappeared and there is nary a trace of any memento from the University of London except a tattered t-shirt. Yet, what I held onto and what brought a smile to my face just recently was a blue and yellow card stuck to the bottom of a drawer. It wasn’t just any card but an Associate Member card to the most venerated of all London’s rock clubs, The Speak. By the time I arrived for the first time, Clapton, Hendrix and Lennon had stopped coming regularly, yet I still felt like the cool kid knowing I walked on hallowed ground.

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