Almost a year ago the boyfriend and I visited Fallingwater, one of Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous residential projects, while in southwestern Pennsylvania for the boyfriend's family reunion. As I noted in a post last August on my personal blog, one thing that isn't mentioned during the tour of the home is that Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., who inherited the house upon death of his parents, was gay.
The tour guides only note that "he never married." Thanks to a recent comment from a reader, I was provided with some information about "the rest of the story" as Paul Harvey used to say. It turns out that in many ways Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., did "marry" - or at least to the extent most of us in the American LGBT community still find ourselves "marrying" our life partners. Kaufmann met Paul Mayén (pictured above) in the early 1950's and the two spent their lives together thereafter until Kaufmann's death more than 30 years later in 1989. What's even crazier is that the visitor center/pavilion at Fallingwater (the cafe is shown in the photo after the jump) was designed by Kaufmann, Jr."s partner, Paul Mayén.
It is sad that in this day and age, false "family values" still continue to hide gay achievements and relationships. Here is some information that provides the rest of the story:
Frank Lloyd Wright may have designed Fallingwater in the 1930s, but it was Paul Mayén (5/1918-11/2000) who designed its gift shop. Both structures host over 130,000 architectural devotees and laymen every year. Both structures are internationally recognized for how seamlessly they blend into their environments. Both men were artists and architects and shared many of the same friends. But while Wright has achieved an almost-movie-star-like fame, Paul Mayén remains practically unknown...
In the early 1950s, he met a fellow art student, Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., with whom he would share his life until Edgar's death in 1989. Edgar's father was the founder of Kaufmann's department store in Pittsburgh; it was his father who commissioned Wright to build the now-famous vacation house for his friends and family near a waterfall in rural Pennsylvania. Wright, exceeding the original budget by almost a factor of ten, instead designed and built Fallingwater over the waterfall. In 1955, Edgar inherited the property and Paul and he visited the site together on mountain retreats until the property was entrusted to a conservation in 1963.
In 1956, the couple assisted I.N. and Bernadine Hagan in choosing the furniture for the Hagan's Frank Lloyd Wright house at the architect's suggestion. In 1959, Paul designed the jacket of a book about Wright, Drawings for a Living Architecture, which was edited by Giuseppe Samonà.
In 1975, he built a country house for them in Garrison, New York. From 1979 to 1981, he oversaw the building of the Fallingwater pavilion which houses a café, gift store, and visitor's center. When Edgar Jr. died, Paul scattered his ashes at Fallingwater. He died in 2000 and also had his ashes scattered there.
Sadly, even Edgar Kaufmann, Jr.'s obituary - while mentioning Mayén as Kaufmann's "longtime colleague and companion" - ends with the sentence, "There are no survivors."