Friday, February 13, 2015

Son & Father : The Two Edgar Kaufmanns

Grace Stoops Kaufmann, wife of the famous owner of Fallingwater, Bear Run, second wife to Edgar Kaufmann, Sr. Far from dying at the Kaufmann's Richard Neutra Palm Springs home, Grace Stoops Kaufmann died in 1961, the victim of a heating pad fire. She was wheelchair bound with multiple schlerosis, according to the New York Times article, "Modern Gothic", dated September 23, 2001. Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. was living at the time. 

Stoops had signed a prenuptial agreement which she later contested because Kaufmann left the bulk of his estate to a foundation, though he provided for Edgar, Jr. Edgar, jr. (no mistake - he hated the Jr. part because Edgar, Jr. alternately despised his father and admired him). Edgar, Jr. donated Fallingwater to the Northern Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1963, nearly ten years after his mother, 

Liliane, died of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills there at the estate. The two had been drinking (as they often did) and the theory is that she simply combined some of Edgar, Sr.'s sleeping pills with too much alcohol. It was a crushing blow for the younger Kaufmann because he really was a best friend to his mother whom he adored. Sadly Edgar, Sr. didn't trust the local hospital and drove her the two hours to Philadelphia. If they had pumped her stomach at the local hospital she might have lived. Very sad. Very, very classy, intelligent lady. Ms. Stoops of course was Mr. Kaufmann's nurse while he was ill. Much is revealed (and reviled) about the Kaufmann's in the book "Apprentice" which is a scandelous expose on Frankly Lincoln Lloyd Wright and his amazing Taliesin. 

The house was reinforced in the 1990's. Wright had really done a bad job of executing the beautiful house he designed and the men whom he hired faced really difficult challenges which they were very unprepared for. Combined with poor weather conditions and other limitations, Fallingwater, though magnificent to look at was horrible as an actual residence. Today the house is probably in better shape structurally than it was when built in 1935.

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