In 1953, Bernardine and I.N. Hagan purchased eighty acres in the mountains above Uniontown in Western Pennsylvania where their families had lived for generations. After falling in love with the home of their friends the Kaufmanns, Fallingwater, they telephoned Frank Lloyd Wright and asked if he would design a house for them. His answer was: “Of course. Come on out.”
At eighty-six, and hard at work on the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Beth Shalom Synagogue in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, and about twelve residential homes, Wright said he could “shake it (Kentuck Knob) out of his sleeve at will” never even setting foot on the site, except for a short visit during the construction phase. This would be one of the last homes completed by Wright.
Photo by Roy Engelbrecht
A team of local builders, led by then seventy-three year old Herman Keys, could not have known the masterpiece they were about to build when they began construction in the early 1950’s. The Hagans moved into the home on 29, July 1956—their 26th wedding anniversary, and spent thirty years at Kentuck Knob. “There is a sense of beauty, comfort, serenity and harmony in the house and all of its surroundings,” Mrs. Hagan says in her book, Kentuck Knob: Frank Lloyd Wright’s House for I.N. and Bernardine Hagan.
After I. N. fell ill, the Hagans could no longer remain on the mountain so they sold the house in 1986 to Lord Palumbo of England. Kentuck Knob opened for tours in 1996.
Life, on occasion, becomes a matter of serendipity. When circumstances conspire to propel one in a certain direction, it is best to go with the flow, or so I have found, even if the precise destination is at the time unknown. My purchase of Kentuck Knob falls into such a category.
I think that both I and the state of Pennsylvania owe a great debt of gratitude to Mr. and Mrs. I.N. Hagan for an inspired commission from an architect of legendary renown.