Monday, August 31, 2009

Kentuck Knob: Frank Lloyd Wright's House for I.N. and Bernardine Hagan

Kentuck Knob Book_HaganKentuck Knob: Frank Lloyd Wright's House for I.N. and Bernardine Hagan by Bernardine Hagan

This hardcover book, written by Bernardine Hagan about her time working with Frank Lloyd Wright, is filled with documents, photos, and of course stories about Kentuck Knob, from its creative inception through the thirty years the Hagans called it home.

The beautiful photos were taken by I.N. Hagan and capture both the structural and the aesthetic.

You can order copies from the publisher The Local History Company or online at Amazon and other booksellers.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sunday Brunch at Kentuck Knob

Kentuck Knob Art Room OutsideOutside of the Kentuck Knob Art Room Photo by Jason Jack Miller

Kentuck Knob would like to invite you to Sunday Brunch in Mrs. Hagan's private Art Room. This rare opportunity provides an intimate social event, wonderful food from local, fresh resources, and an extended house tour with a senior guide. When planning, please allow one hour to see the Sculpture Meadow and Gift Shop. The $100.00 per person event is limited to six guests, but no less than two. We recommend that all guests be at least 12 years of age.

Our Sunday Brunch Tours are 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM on these dates:

September 27
October 25
November 22
December 27

For more information, please contact Marketing Director Patricia Coyle at To book a reservation call 724/329-1901 or visit

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Kentuck Knob's Southern Terrace Tour

For a special treat on Friday, August 21 and Friday, September 4, 2009, try Kentuck Knob's Southern Terrace Tour.

After an extended evening tour of the house, guests will be invited to enjoy apple pie and Hagan's Pennsylvania Vanilla Ice Cream on the southern terrace adjacent to the living room, relaxing while the sun illuminates the home and surrounding foliage as it sets over the mountain.

The tour is $100.00 per person and limited to 10 guests, but no less than two.

For more information, please email Marketing Director Patricia Coyle at

To make reservations, please visit or call 724/329-1901.

Kentuck Knob Southern TerracePHOTO BY Jason Jack Miller

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Teachers Contemplate Kentuck Knob's Sculpture Meadow

Kentuck Knob Teacher Session_Red ArmyPhoto by Jason Jack Miller

During a recent teacher training session for Kentuck Knob's Educational Outreach Program, instructor Heidi Ruby Miller (middle) discusses Ray Smith's Red Army with attendees Cynthia Mulligan and Joshua Scully.

An in-depth, guided tour of the property's expansive sculpture meadow is just one part of the continuing education sessions offered to teachers by Kentuck Knob.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Ever Evolving Landscape of Kentuck Knob

My great gardening mentor, Linden Miller, used to say, “Gardening is the slowest moving of the performing arts." As the horticulturist in charge of the breathtaking landscape at Kentuck Knob, I have the great pleasure of participating in the evolution of this historic landscape.PhotobucketIn 1953, I.N. and Bernardine Hagan began conversations with the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright about designing a house for them on an 80-acre property in the Laurel Highlands of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Wright chose the site, a “knob” or large bald hill, known to the locals as Kentuck Knob, where he carefully positioned the home just below the summit of the hill rather than on the top of it. This way the house seems to grow right out of the surrounding hillside. This fusion of architecture and landscape is integral to Mr. Wright’s concept of organic architecture; hence, the home becomes inextricable from the landscape.

Mr. Wright left all the details of the landscaping to the Hagans, saying only, “Keep it natural.”

In 1956, their first year living in the house, Mr. and Mrs. Hagan expanded the integration between the home and landscape by randomly planting 6,000 tree seedlings throughout the abandoned cornfield that descended down the north side of the knob. The receipt from Mussers Nursery in Indiana, PA, lists White Ash, White Oak, Pin Oak, Sugar Maple, Shellbark Hickory, Tulip Poplar, and Eastern Hemlock. On the south side of the knob, the native woodlands had been timbered and left a mess. Mr. and Mrs. Hagan went on to plant a total of over 8,800 tree seedlings in all, bringing the native woodlands back to life. Many of the remaining fields were allowed to recover naturally, and wildflowers were encouraged.

Bernardine Hagan was an accomplished gardener even before she moved to her new mountain home. She studied landscape design at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, and was drawn to Japanese gardens. Though the site at Kentuck Knob was not suitable for a traditional Japanese garden, she employed many of the concepts: gravel paths, stepping stone walks, and boulders as sculpture. In fact, Mrs. Hagan orchestrated a great effort by many dedicated local men to move large boulders around the site for just the right effect.

Robert Taylor of Carnegie Mellon helped design a prominent water feature on the back terrace, and Mrs. Hagan planted heaths, heathers, and many other cushion plants that spilled over the flagstones around it and into the pathway. She also kept bonsai plants on the terrace in the summer.

In 1986, Lord Peter Palumbo, drawn to the brilliant combination of location and design at Kentuck Knob, purchased the property from the Hagans. The Palumbo family have proved committed stewards of this living landscape and are currently working on a plan for an arboretum of native trees on the property. Labels identifying many remarkable specimens are currently being installed, especially near the visitors’ center and in the Sculpture Meadow. This expansive meadow, which houses works by world-renowned sculptors like Sir Anthony Caro and Andy Goldsworthy was turned into lawn some years ago, and is now part of an experiment to return many of the native wildflowers and grasses to this area.

Since the property has been open to the public in 1996, the heavy foot traffic has prohibited the kind of exuberant plantings that once decorated the flagstone pathways. And since no garden is ever static, the shade provided by maturing trees has also placed limits on restoring the previous plant palate. The result was a loss of the delicacy of some of the former design.

But, together with Bernardine Hagan, who celebrated her 100th birthday this year, and her good friend Eleanor Ulmer, the Palumbos are dedicated to preserving the continuity of the original garden design as it grows and changes over time. I, too, am honored to be a part of this wonderful undertaking, and I look forward to sharing it with visitors as it grows through the seasons.

-Laura Tebbitt
Kentuck Knob Director of Horticulture