Welcome To Lynn Hall: Builder Walter J. Hall
chief contractor for Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water

Lynn Hall as it appeared druing the 1940s
photo credit: John G. Coleman Collection

Lynn Hall, Port Allegany in a larger map">see Lynn Hall on Google Maps
View Lynn Hall 2005 A.D.

Lynn Hall or Fallingwater:
Which Came First?


View Lynn Hall, Port Allegany in a larger map

Lynn Hall, built by Port Allegany's eccentric designer-builder Walter J. Hall later the home of his son, architect Raymond Viner Hall. The unique sprawling structure is located in Port on a hillside overlooking a river-valley. The central section of the building was first opened in 1936 as the first stage of a country inn project, with two dining rooms and an Architect's office in the small area identified as TV/Card Room. During ensuing years, Raymond Viner's use of space expanded until the restaurant inn concept finally disappeared. Lynn Hall (its name today) was in construction for 35 years (1971) and may someday be completed.
Port Allegany's Walter J. Hall
on building site of Falling Water

photo credit: James Young Collection

Lynn Hall or Fallingwater:
Which Came First?

Lynn Hall Plan (Upper & Lower Floors)

photo credit: Raymond Morton Hall:
"Raymond Viner Hall Architecture"

The plans above are showing the present use of Lynn Hall. The change in function during the middle years has effected more advantages than problems; related to the office-home composite. Built of indigenous stone and sand, Lynn Hall is supplemented by natural wood allowing it to nestle into the hillside (a natural spring occurs in the upper body) and freely open toward the valley without negating the desired sense of warm shelter during the northern winter.

Port Allegany Man Helped Build Fallingwater

By Waldo Pettenati
Special to the Bradford Era

A Port Allegany man who built a hillside inn there was involved with architect Frank Lloyd right in building the world-famous Fallingwater house at Bear Run.
Walter J. Hall was builder of houses and schools in Port Allegany and the surrounding area. He had begun building an inn outside Port Allegany in 1934, later called Lynn Hall, located on Route 6 on a hillside.

It was this inn, later completed by his son, which helped Hall connect with Wright and get involved in the Fallingwater project.

In 1936, Wright and Edgar Kaufmann of Kaufmann Departmend Clothing Stores in Pittsburgh had begun building Fallingwater for Kaufmann at Bear Run but were fighting over the design and specifications of the house, which was to be built after the theme of "organic engineering."

That meant the structure was to blend with nature and be part of nature. No bulldozers or earthmovers were to be used. The house would be one with nature, using native stone and concrete as the main building material.

As it happened about that time, Edgar J. Kaufmann jr., son of Edgar Kaufmann, was traveling through northwestern Pennsylvania when he saw Lynn Hall in Port Allegany.

"The house is chiefly masonry, stone work and concrete - exactly the type we are to build at Bear Run," wrote Edgar jr. to his father.

When the senior Kaufmann heard that there was a contractor-builder who worked in the organic engineering manner, he immediately contacted Wright. "We have our contractor," he told him.

In a letter of application to Wright, Hall wrote, "I have never worked on a job over which I did not have complete charge....It may be well to mention that my experience with labor unions has been similar to yours.... I have ventured building an inn for myself on a new section of U.S. Route 6.... I took the sand and stone from the hill on the site and carried on the work almost entirely with my own hands."

"Here is the man who will build Fallingwater house for us at Bear Run," wrote Kaufmann to Wright. There was probably no more meeting of like men in the designing and building trades than Wright, Kauffman and Hall.

Stubborn, egotistical and aggressive, each man engaged in a written contract which each believed would give him the sole right and say in building Fallingwater.

In July, 1936, Kaufmann and Hall signed a contract that stated, "Each week Mr. Kaufmann will pay the sum of $50.00 a week to Mr. Hall as wages for services rendered."
Hall had estimated the total cost of the house at Bear Run to be $29,000. Kaufmann then stipulated that if Hall contained the cost within Hall's estimation, Kaufmann would pay a cash bonus of $25 per week for every week Hall was employed.

In the construction of Fallingwater the stone work was to blend with its surroundings. Weeks passed before the important and showpiece cantilever was to be poured. The cantilever was to project 18 feet over natral rock piers and extend 18 over Bear Run water falls.

A major conflict resulted when the pouring of cement was begun. Kaufmann insisted that the cantilever needed more steel reinforcement, while Wright and Hall argued that the cantilever would support itself over the falls. In the end more steel was used, and the cantilever gracefully projected over the falls with a drop of only one inch as the wooden supports were removed.

A final letter to Walter Hall reveals the character of Edgar Kaufmann Sr. and Hall. Dated Jan. #, 1940, from the office of the president of Kaufmann Department Storeds in Pittsburgh, Kaufmann wrote, "We have just completed having a group of people at the Bear Run guest house and I want you to know how beautifully it all worked out and how wonderful everybody thought the execution of Mr. Wright's plans were.

"I know it would make you feel warm. Most of my friends were architects and designers who had a high appreciation for workmanship. There was no end of praise of what you were able to do with the mountain labor. So wishing you all that you deserve for the year 1940 and hoping you will be able to continue in your construction of the ideal home, believe me sincerely, Edgar J. Kaufmann.

" P.S.: At the time you moved into the stone house early last spring we had a couple, if you remember, Mr. and Mrs. Waktor, who was living there. Mrs. Kaufmann bought a complete list of kitchen untensils for them to use in the house. When they left I believe you started housekeeping with young Miss Scarlett who cooked for you.

"These untensils have entirely disappeared and Mr. Lewis Ohler claims that you came and got them. He was under the impression that you purchased them. Is it possible that you did purchase some utensils but do not recall that we purchased and could you give me any information as to whether or not you came and got them. I am trying to locate them and you might help me by telling just what took plae. Initialed, E.J.K."

Walter Hall died in 1952. He had left his mark on Fallingwater at Bear Run where water spills over rocks sheltered by an 18-foot cantilever.

In 1938, the Architectural Record listed Fallingwater as "the most important building of the last one hundred years, Fallingwater took first place."

Walter Hall and the people of Port Allegany have a mark in the Fallingwater masterpiece of art which began in their commmunity. There was never a house quite like it before, and there has been none since.

View this location 1940's

Far from FallingWater, http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/s_172008.html December 28, 2003
High on Route 6, the road to Port Allegany, (Pennsylvania), sits an exquisite show of stonework, a sprawling, flat roofed restaurant that was built by hand by a man who near-missed history.

It was wonderful, once. There was a piano, an indoor trout pond and a fireplace that could fit a 6-foot log. Big window offered a view of the valley below. Across the road, on the hillside, in the style of the Hollywood sign , were the letters that read “LYNN HALL”--- on the boards so big you could see them clear across McKean County.

That glory, like the man who imagined it, is long gone. The rooms are cold now, and cluttered, littered with car seats, caulk tubes, tarps, and old tools. The windows have frosted over. The ceiling above the entry has collapsed. Upstairs, in the old architectural office, a tree tore through the roof, bringing in rain that buckled the floorboards.

Yet the building, all but abandoned after the cook left, owing rent, and the architects shop closed, and a second wife won all rights to it all, only to ignore it, letting the boiler to burst and water drip in, still manages to look as familiar as it is forgotten. The flat roof, the stone floors, the long row of windows with the booths below-all are the trademarks of Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect who built Fallingwater, the Fayette County home that is among the nation's best known.

Every few weeks, then, when someone pulls up to the pump house and asks Ray Morton Hall, a retired pilot, for a look at “the Frank Lloyd Wright building,” Hall tells them the truth: that his grandfather, Walter J. Hall built this place, on a lonely road not far from the New York border, and then went on to build fallingwater, too.

“ A Joint Of His Own”

locals know route 6 as the Roosevelt Highway, part of a patchwork tack that ties Cape Cod to Long Beach, Calif. Port Allegany's portion was still being built when Walter Hall bought his 55 acres of pasture land.
The road going there was dirt then.

Hall was a no dollar eyed speculator. His wife had died, and his home life had disappeared with her.
“he pretty much assumed he was going to spend the rest of his life alone, in boarding houses,” says his grandson, now 65 himself. “he figured he might as well have a joint of his own.”

He started Lynn Hall, named after his mother, in 1934. The building first appeared on the local tax rolls years later.
To Ray Morton Hall, who lived in a wing of the building as a boy, before moving to the smaller pump house, those dates are essential details. Fallingwater, he knows, was not designed until 1936.

The two buildings - one renowned, the other neglected, - are undeniably tied, even to an untrained eye. The designs, from the roofs to the windows to the walls themselves, with jutting stones to serve as built in shelves, are entwined. That's why so many pull up to Ray Morton Halls drive.

Each time he smiles, stirs his coffee, and sets them straight.

It's the old chicken-and-egg question, he says. And the dates say his building came first.

“People think it's a Frank Lloyd Wright building,” he says. “But it's actually the other way around. Fallingwater could have been a Hall building.

It is, in the sense that Hall got it built. Wright's client, E. J. Kaufmann, paid his $50 a week-and $25 more a week for every time he came in under cost.

Kaufmann's son, Edgar Jr., took credit for bringing the men together. On a drive to buffalo, to eye some of Wright's other work- Darwin Martin house, maybe- he saw the Lynn Hall stonework and alerted his father of the opportunity. Or so he said.
Franklin Toker, the University of Pittsburgh professor who wrote “Fallingwater rising,” a richly detailed new history of the Bear Run home, believes another man brought Hall on board. After his book was printer, Toker heard from a niece of Earl Friar, who managed a farm at Taliesin, Wright's Wisconsin compound. His letters, she said, show that before that, Friar had worked for one Walter J. Hall
A Question Of Stolen Silver

At Bear Run, the man wrestled with Anaean egos. Wright, when he bothered to appear, dressed eccentric, with his hat and cane and the occasional cape. Hall fashioned a cloak of his own, and a head-wrap he tied at the temples.

Kaufmann quarreled with both. He sent a subordinate, Carl Thumm, to monitor their progress. Thumm was the one who approved, without Wrights knowledge, the use of extra steel reinforcements in the home's soaring cantilever, which cracked anyway.

“Thumm would come on Sundays,” says Rudy Anderson, a young carpenter Hall brought from Port Allegheny. “He'd go over all the work I had done the week before, that pretty much took care of my Sunday afternoons.”

Kaufmann's son called Hall “rough hillbilly contractor” when he spoke to Donald Hoffman, the Kansas City architecture critic who wrote “Fallingwater: The House And Its History.” But Hoffman came to his own conclusion.

“Reading Hall's letters,” he says, “it struck me that he was quite on the ball. It didn't make any difference where he came from. He knew what he was doing. Wright was lucky to find him, actually.”

“Hall may have been rural,” he says, “but he was straightforward, Certainly more so then Wright. Wright was the holy devil when things didn't go his way.”

At Bear Run, they rarely did. The architect's designs often fell short, with measurements off or missing altogether. Hall, who worked for 40 years before coming to Bear Run, made changes as he went.

That infuriated Wright, who vented in a letter penned in August of 1936. Ray Morton Hall keeps it in a Ziploc bag.

“My Dear Hall,” Wright wrote. “I guess I took too much for granted when I called you on the Kaufmann house. Probably you have always been your own boss, never worked for and architect and never heard of ethics.”

Cleary the work wasn't going well. Wright was under pressure.

“I have put to much into this house (even money, which item you will understand)to have it miscarry by mischievous interferences of any sort,” he wrote. “the kind of buildings I build don't happen that way. Several have been ruined that way, however, and this one may be one of them.”

Ray Morton Hall's wife, Rhonda, looks up from the table, where she has been grading papers.

“Walter and Wright were meant for each other,” she says. “They were both irritating.
Kaufmann, ever the salesman, was smoother. In his own letter to Hall - this one, from 1940, the grandson has framed-he praises the man's master craftsmanship. Then gets to the point:

“At the time you moved into the stone house early last spring we had a couple, if you remember, Mr. and Mrs. Waktor, who was living there. Mrs. Kaufmann bought a complete list of kitchen utensils for them to use in the house.”
“These utensils has entirely disappeared, and Mr. Lewis Ohler claims that you came and got them. He was under the impression that you purchased them.”

Then, diplomatic to the end:” I am trying to locate them, and you might be able to help me by telling just what took place.”
Ray Morton Hall laughs at the accusation, “you know,” he says, “we probably ran the restaurant with that stuff.”

An A-list Attraction

Back home, the Bear Run project behind him, Walter Hall built his restaurant lodge in a A-list attraction. He stocked the pond with fresh trout. He polished the 117-year-old Steinway. He circulated, working the dinner crowd with the joy of a man no longer alone.
“That man liked to mingle,” says Rudy Anderson, the carpenter Hall had hired for the Kaufmann job.

Anderson, now 87, took his parents to Lynn Hall for their 45th wedding anniversary. His wife ordered the fish, which came to the table with the head still attached.The dining room was crowded back then. Companies held their Christmas parties at Lynn Hall. Wedding parties filled the ballroom upstairs. Guests stepped out on the terraces for a breath of fresh air.

Those days passed to fast. Hall, a teetotaler, did not allow a drop of liquor in his building. That, and gas ration during world war II, crippled his business. The route 6 restaurant was suddenly too far from the Buffalo, NY, billboards that advertised it.
Hall died in 1953. The cook quit soon after, owing rent, and the restaurant closed for good.

The dining room upstairs is a mess now, a mix of paint rollers, ladders and shop-vacs, with an easel and some extra chairs thrown in. the entire floor was under water once.
“It ran through here like you'd turned on a garden hose,” Ray Morton Hall says.

The kitchen was worse. There were holes in the ceiling Hall could have dropped a jeep through.

The ballroom upstairs has been walled into offices. Hall's son, Raymond Viner-Ray Morton Hall's father - made that his architecture shop. From there, he designed several of the area's high schools, and a PPG Fiberglass plant for O'Hara Township, Allegheny County.
“There was a lot of work coming in,” says Preston Abbey, who worked at Lynn Hall until 1953. “We were never wondering what to do.”

The men worked at wide tabled set against the long wall of windows. “you had a beautiful view of the valley,” Abbey say. “It was quite nice.”

The tables are still there. Ray Morton Hall pulls a tarp off the top of one and pages through several sheets of blueprints, many of them taped in places, the color bleached.

All the prints are from 1936. From Fallingwater.

“The Home's Crown Jewel's”

A low door near the back of Lynn Hall, where the building snug into the hillside, opens into what was meant to be the first guest room.
The floor is still dirt. Walter Hall never got to it.

His grandson has made this his workshop. Hand tools hung over a tinker's bench. Cut lumber is stacked to one side. A table saw sits in puffs of fresh sawdust - the same saw Walter Hall used at Fallingwater.

Ray Morton Hall always thinks of his grandfather here. He was close to him; as close as he was to his father, maybe. It breaks his heart, seeing this place fall apart.

“You can see what it once was,' he says. “And you can see what it could be again.”

His options are limited, however. Port Allegany, a town of just 2,300, has little use for Lynn Hall. The economy is stunted. The closest hospital has just 34 beds. The state police barracks is an hour away.

“Our community is a ghost town,” Hall says. “The industry has withered. Were down to a milk-the-cow situation.”
The western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which maintains Fallingwater, charging $10 for tours, has not moved to protect Lynn Hall, Fallingwater Director Lynda Waggoner has never been there.

The Wright connection might be Hall's best bet nonetheless. That's what brings people to the property now.
With them, he argues his grandfathers standing, positioning him - and his last home, for history.

Still, his chicken-and-egg analogy misses an issue. though Walter Hall started Lynn Hall long before Fallingwater took shape, he clearly was influenced by Wright - if not at Fallingwater, then at the Martin House, or at Taliesin. Both buildings were well known, and widely publicized. Hall, who had once glimpsed Wright in Buffalo, would have known both.

Raymond Viner Hall even applied for a fellowship at Taliesin. Later, he flew his entire staff to Philadelphia to view an exhibit of Wright's work.

Wright's standing is assured, of course. The American Institute of Architects has called Fallingwater “the best all-time work of American Architecture.”

Ray Morton Hall cannot compete with that. “The Wright mythology is established,” he says. “It's set.”

His grandfather's contributor's get much less credit, when they are acknowledged at all.

“I don't think there was much influence for Hall back to Wright,” Donald Hoffman says. “Hall's letters show that he more or less worshipped Wright. He put up with an awful lot of nonsense.”

His stonework, though, may well have changed the feel and flow of Fallingwater's floors.
“I'm quite sure Wright got that from Walter Hall,” Franklin Toker says.

The walls, too, owe much to Hall. “The stonework at Fallingwater is one of the home's crown jewels,” Toker says. “It's the most lyrical stonework in America. It mesmerizes you. It appears to be straight out of Nature.

“Nobody had ever achieved that before,” Toker says. “Not Wright, and not Walter Hall.”

The men parted ways after Bear Run. Hall wanted to pursue other projects, Lynn Hall among them.
His true influence at Fallingwater may never be known.

“It's not simple at all,” Toker says. “It's a little uncertain, like a Rembrandt, where the student starts it but the master goes over it later. And it's foolish to pronounce on that.”

Ray Morton Hall is left, then, with the few curious people who stop to talk, always asking the wrong question. He has a Wright letter, his blueprints and his grandfather's saw. He has a cold building he cannot fully insure. And he has the nagging sense, now that he is older, that Lynn Hall, where so many other buildings were born, one day will be no more that a historical footnote, sure to be forgotten

Which Came First?

The work of Walter J. Hall and Frank Lloyd Wright are so closely intertwined that it’s unclear who had more influence over the other. See the house called Lynn hall --- the mysterious predecessor of Fallingwater.IT IS ALMOST INVISIBLE NOW, a ghost of a building squatting in the looming hemlocks at the edge of the highway. Though its now rundown and overgrown, the brooding brilliance of the place endures. You still can see its crisp, horizontal lines formed by the distinctive, rough-hewn rocks, laid by hand three-quarters of a century ago by a gifted craftsman.

It had been magnificent once, a monument to a vision of architecture as art. Those few locals who still remember it in its heyday remember the place known as Lynn Hall as an elegant and sophisticated place.

But that was a long time ago. Now it seems that Lynn Hall is disappearing, retreating back into the mountainside above port Allegany for which it had been carved. But even more important that, the building itself is the mystery that continues to surround it. A remarkable achievement in it own right, the building at the top of the hill immediately bring to mind Fallingwater, the architect icon that Frank Lloyd Wright designed at Bear Run. And there is a very real question, hotly debated by those few experts who have seen Lynn Hall: Did Fallingwater serve as a model for Lynn Hall, or did Lynn Hall, begun years earlier, provide the inspiration for at least portions of Wrights masterpiece?Lynn Hall has almost been forgotten, as has its builder, Walter j, Hall, a brilliant, some say eccentric, local man with a native talent for stonework and a gift got architectural improvation.

But walk through Lynn Hall now, pushing past the detritus of years of neglect, past the discarded paint cans and old boxes, wading through the rivulets of brackish water and clambering over fallen plaster, and the question of which came first echoes with every footfall.
THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT Hall was deeply impressed with the early work of Frank Lloyd Wright, though precisely how the backwoods builder learned about the work of the revolutionary and famously flamboyant architect remains a bit of a mystery.Perhaps, says Frank Toker, the university of Pittsburgh professor who penned “Fallingwater rising” and has also studied Lynn Hall, Walter Hall came across some of Wrights designs during a foray to Buffalo N.Y., where in 1903 Wright built the Darwin-Martin house, a classic example of his prairie-style homes.

It is also possible that Hall learned of Wrights work though a former employee, Earl Friar, one of the scores of young men from the valley between Smethport and Port Allegany whom Hall put to work during his 50-plus year career. After learning his trade at Hall’s side, particularly his magical skills with stone and concrete, Friar later went to work for Wright at the Taliesin Studio in Wisconsin.
Regardless of its roots, Hall’s fascination with Wrights sense of style and design and, most importantly, his commitment to harmonizing buildings with the land bordered on the obsessive.

“From the very start, when I went to work with him, he talked about Frank Lloyd Wright,” said Ruby Anderson, who 70 years ago was a young, would-be carpenter whom Hall took under his wing. “He had ideas like Frank,” the now 93-year-old Anderson recalls. “Of course at the time, it didn’t mean anything to me.”

It didn’t mean much to the comfortable burghers of Port Allegany or nearby Smethport, then two moderately prosperous oil, lumber and farming communities in McKean county for whom Hall regularly produced predictable traditional homes and fashioned appropriately subdued additions for their appropriately subdued public buildings.

By all accounts, Halls obsession with wrights organic designs was generally regarded by the locals as an eccentricity, and one that his neighbors and clients might have been willing to tolerate, but would never indulge, certainly not with a contract or a commission.
But that was not enough to prevent Hall from indulging in his dream on his own.

IN THE EARLY 1930’s, years before Frank Lloyd Wright sketched his first drafts for Fallingwater, Hall began work on Lynn Hall.
His grandson, Ray Morton Hall, recalls a mixture of idealism inspiration and cold, back-country pragmatism that led Hall to buy a 55-acre tract at the end of a dirt cow path and to fashion on it a kind of laboratory where, it is widely agreed, at least some of the innovations later applied to Fallingwater would be proved.

The way Ray Morton Hall, known to the locals as Ray Jr., tells the story, the builder was getting on in years, and his wife had died. Though he had built houses for others and from time to time even lived in them until they were sold, he had never really built one for himself. By 1934, he found himself living in various rooming houses, taking his meals at other people’s tables.

“His rationale… was that f if he was going to spend the rest of his life in boarding houses and soup kitchens here and there and everywhere, then he might as well build a joint of his own,” Ray Jr. said.

But it wasn’t going to be just any joint. Along with his son, Ray Hall Sr. a budding architect and sometime-builder who had a knack for losing hammers so he wouldn’t have to actually do any realphysical work, Walter began sketching out the design for what he would later call a country inn. But it was to be no rustic retreat.

Hall envisioned an organic building, carved out of and molded into the mountainside overlooking the pristine Allegheny River Valley. To be sure, the design – long and horizontal lines faced with carefully laid and hand picked local stone capped by a sleek concrete roof and porticos --- owed much of its inspiration to Wright.

But the building, as Hall designed it, also reflected his understanding of what the rocky ground of Western Pennsylvania offered and what it demanded of anyone who wanted to build something that would harmonize with it.

IN SHART, AS RAY HALL JR. SEES IT, Lynn Hall was the first place where the vast blue of Wrights theories came in contact with the flinty practicality of Walter Halls experience.

In Wrights theoretical world, the land informs the designs. At Lynn Hall, the land itself was one of the designers of the place. The land demanded that. Back in those days, Ray Hall Jr. said, there were no earthmovers readily available, no rock drills, no bulldozers. So Walter Hall and the young laborers he hired had to carve out the building site with picks, shovels and solid appreciation of their own limitations. “That’s one of the reasons the building is up and down all over the place. You dug with a pick and shovel until you came to hard rock, and that’s where the stairs started.”

Rudy Anderson, who signed on to learn carpentry from Hall, remembered his first day on the job at Lynn Hall as something more akin to mining then woodwork. “I told him I wanted to be a carpenter, and he kind of looked me up and down and he says, “Why, I’ve got three or four like you now and three or four guys lined up behind them to tear down what they do. But come on out in the morning anyway.’ So I come out the next day. The boiler room had to be dug out 20 inches to 2 feet deeper, and that’s what he got me doing. Digging dirt. And I though, ‘ if this carpenter work, I don’t want any part of it.
By 1935, according to both Anderson and Hall’s grandson, much of the work on the main structure – the dining room and ballroom, with it’s elaborate stone fireplaces and its sleek, carved steps leading to an elegant indoor waterfall and fish pond – had been completed, at least to the point where the vision could be clearly seen and the structure was put on the local tax rolls.
That was when; at long last, Walter Hall and Frank Lloyd Wright crossed paths.
Edgar Kaufmann Jr., son of the man who hired Wright to dream up his masterpiece at Bear Run, had been dispatched by his father to Buffalo to take stock of some of Wright’s earlier work. En route, he found his way to Port Allegany. While looking for a place to grab a quick meal, Kaufmann is said to have gotten into a conversation with some of the locals who told him about the eccentric builder and his odd project at the top of the hill. Kaufmann dropped in unannounced at the unfinished Lynn Hall and talked with Hall. Though he would later describe him in conversation with author Donald Huffman as “a hillbilly builder,” at the time, Kaufmann was so struck by Hall’s work that he immediately notified his father, saying, “This house is chiefly masonry, stonework and concrete—exactly the type we are to build at Bear Run.”
Shortly thereafter, the elder Kaufmann wrote to Wright. “We have our builder.”
The truth was, Wright and Kaufmann desperately needed one.

The first contractor already walked off the job, claiming that Wrights design for Fallingwater --- which often relied on specifications that were incomplete and in some cases flat wrong – could not be built. That’s when Walter Hall decided to accept the $50-a-week job Kaufmann and Walter offered him.

Halls decision was so swift that it took his young apprentice, Rudy Anderson, by surprise. “I was working for him for 3 or 4 weeks, and I took a weekend off and went down to see my sister in Bucks Country. While I was down there, he got a call to come down and build Fallingwater,” Anderson told Pittsburgh Quarterly.

“Well, his wife was dead, he was all alone and so he thought, “well this is what I want to do.’ And so he left, and went right down there,” Anderson said. “Well, when I came back I was out of a job. So 2 or 3, or maybe a week or 10 days later, I got a call from him, he says ‘come down, I’ve got a good job here.”

Anderson, who did not own a car at the time, scrounged a ride down to bear run and when he arrived at the site, Hall had already established himself as the cock of the walk. “They had poured the piers under Fallingwater and was pulling off the forms when we come down there.” Anderson said. “He was showing the boys how to grind the concrete with mortar and whatnot. Well he comes right back up on the bridge where I was standing, just tickled me to see me, like one of his own kids.”
Whether the famed architect recognized it or not, his design for Fallingwater left a great deal of room for improvisation. And because Wright spent long months away from the project, Hall improvised with abandon.
Often it was to Wrights chagrin, Ray Jr. said.
Ray Hall Jr. noted one particularly testy letter to Wright, in which Hall informed the master designer that he had just finished pouring the support piers for the living room of Fallingwater. Hall added curtly, “I put them where I thought they out to be on account of there’s no dimensions on your drawing.”
Hall, whose ego, by all accounts, matched Wright’s, made changes to the plans as he went along, among other things, adding reinforcements to what he saw as dangerously weak concrete and in some cases adding flourishes to the building. In one move, apparently inspired by Lynn Hall experience, Hall decided to leave a massive boulder in place in the living room. “You recall that big stone next to the fireplace?” Hall’s grandson asked. “That was my grandfathers idea. Wright wanted it removed, and Walter said, ‘why take it out? It’s natural.”
AS THE WORK PROGRESSED ON Fallingwater, the clash of egos between Wright and the Builder became more dramatic. “Wright was not really a builder. He was the designer, and he was also just about as obstinate as my grandfather,” Ray Hall Jr. said.” The problem was there was only room for one god on a project, and they had two.” On at least once occasion, Walter Hall allowed himself to be photographed wrapped in an Indian blanket, Ray Hall Jr. said, a tweak at Wrights penchant for wearing capes at the work site.
Fir his part, Wright made no secret of his irritation with what he perceived to be Hall’s cheekiness.

“I guess I took too much for granted when I called you on the Kaufmann house. Probably, you have always been your own boss, never worked for an architect and never heard of ethics,” Wright wrote Hall in one letter that Ray Hall Jr. has kept as a treasured memento. “If you imagine your meddlesome attitude to be either sensible or honest – we will not say ethical – something was left out of either your character or your education. I have put too much into this house, even money, which item you will understand, to have it miscarry by mischievous interferences of any sort. The kind of buildings I build don’t happen that way, several have been ruined that way however and this one may be one of them. It is only fair to say to you directly that you will either fish or cut bait or I will. I am willing to quit if I must but unwilling to go with my eyes open into the failure of my work.

The work, of course, was not a failure. The moment it was completed, Fallingwater was celebrated as one of the world’s greatest architectural achievements, and Wright basked in the glory.

There is no question that his design was both revolutionary and spectacular, but though the historical record is unclear, there are elements of which the building for which later Walter J. Hall deserves great credit, and for which Lynn Hall may well have been the model. The use of radiant heat, which was regarded as progressive when used at Fallingwater, “is probably something Wright picked up from Walter J. Hall,” says Toker. And Hall, who had used a 40-foot reinforced concrete beam that provided the spine for Lynn Hall, appears to have drawn on that experience in his construction at Fallingwater.

THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A QUESTION about the extent of Hall’s influence over Fallingwater and to what degree Lynn Hall served as a model for it.

As Toker put it; “That Walter J. Hall was influenced by Wright is 100 percent clear, but he certainly did make contributions to Fallingwater. And maybe the characteristics stone of Fallingwater, which Wright had not exactly used in that matter, might be a contribution of Walter J. Hall.”

There is little question that Wright, despite hit petulant outbursts, recognized that hall had contributed a great deal to Fallingwater. Ray Hall Jr. says Wright appreciated those contributions enough to offer Hall a job at Taliesin.
But by the time Fallingwater was complete, the builder had enough of Wright. He turned him down.
He returned to Port Allegany, and while he continued to build other homes in the style that he honed at both Lynn Hall and Fallingwater, he never really fulfilled his dream of completing Lynn Hall.

THE OLD COW PATH THAT LED TO the place became part of route 6, a scenic highway that snakes across the northern tier of the state. An apartment wing was added, and Hall and his son built a cottage – a pump house, actually, that he designed as a small home. It radiates around a central stone hearth, a building that seems to owe as much to the lessons Hall learned at Fallingwater, as Fallingwater owes to the lessons drawn from Lynn Hall.

But despite those efforts, Hall’s vision of a country inn, complete with stylish rooms fashioned out of stone and built in harmony with the land around it, never came to pass.

For a time, it did operate as a restaurant, first run by the family and then by a succession of restaurateurs. It was, by all accounts, a stunningly elegant place that was advertised by a 20- foot high wooden sign posted on the hill above it that could be seen for miles.
Ethyln Ford, now 88 years old, was a 17-year-old girl when she first took a job as a waitress at Lynn Hall. She remembers it as an almost magical when scores of nattily dressed customers from as far away as Buffalo dined in the flickering glow of the massive fireplace or glided up the polished stone staircase to dance in the expansive ballroom.“It was always busy,” she recalled.

But changing tastes and changing fortunes seemed to conspire against it. Gasoline rationing during World War II slowed traffic along route 6 to a trickle, and business dried up along with it. It didn’t help that Walter J. Hall, a teetotaler, refused to secure a liquor license for the place, though he was willing to turn a blind eye when, during parties or other functions, customers brought there own liberations.
By the early 1950s, the restaurant was fading into memory. In 1953, Hall died. His deathbed has been placed near the front window of the little cottage overlooking Lynn Hall and the valley below.

In the years that followed, Hall’s son, Ray Sr., tried to keep Lynn Hall alive, turning it into an office of sorts for his architectural business, but after his death, Ray Jr. says the building slipped into decline. The decline accelerated when Ray Sir’s second wife won the rights to the place, and, after living there for a time, virtually abandoned it.

Ray Jr., a retired pilot, and his wife, Rhonda, and educational consultant, eventually regained control of Lynn Hall, but by that time the building needed far more work than they could afford. Recently, they’ve begun the arduous task of trying to document the buildings history and its influence on one of the world’s greatest architectural masterpieces.

They are trying to have the place listed on the Nation Historic Register and are hoping someone with a deep appreciation of native beauty and historic significance of the building will buy it and restore it to its former glory.

“That’s what we’re hoping for,” Ray Jr., as he makes his way in the shadows up the central stairway of the old inn, past the long-dry waterfall and the dusty basin of the fish pond and into the long- abandoned ballroom.

Hall understands that finding a rescuer for Lynn Hall is a long shot. But unless that happens, and unless it happens soon, the old place will continue to deteriorate and may be lost forever. That would be a tragedy.

Lynn Hall 2005 A.D.
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