USA: Dacshunds & Design

I’ve had the delight of visiting two wonderful buildings designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Whilst wandering through the living spaces and gardens, I had the time to think about the lucky dogs that had lived in these amazing spaces. Fallingwater does not appear to be a particularly Dachshund friendly (the breed are particularly prone to the back problem Intervertebral Disc Disease) being built directly into the boulders of a thundering waterfall with cantilevered floors on numerous levels and steps (including ‘hanging’ stairs leading directly into the waterfall) however the wealthy owners (the Kaufmanns of Pittsburg) bred and showed long-haired and the dogs (up to six) would accompany the family when they visited the weekend wilderness retreat.

Little is known about the lives of the dogs however I did find a reference to them in interviews with the Kaufmann staff who would travel with the family, dogs and guests to the house including the family cook – Elsie Henderson and amongst recipes and memories relayed the following:

Liliane’s (Mrs Kaufmanns) dogs ate meat and only the best meat. The deliveryman bragged that he delivered meat for the Kaufmanns (in the 1950s), not realizing it was for the dachshunds.

“I was told that during the war years someone told Mrs. Kaufmann, it was sinful to feed the dogs Grade A meat when most people were rationed,” Elsie remembers. Liliane replied, “I don’t give a damn. My dogs didn’t start the war!”. On weekends, it fell to Elsie to prepare the dogs’ bacon and eggs for breakfast. She’d fry a pound and a half of bacon until it was dry, and then scramble a dozen eggs. “I crumbled the bacon up in them. The plates went up to Mrs Kaufmann’s room, so she could watch them eat.” On Friday nights, the dogs dined on whitefish poached in milk. Elsie came to have her own affection for the animals. And if Edgar Sr. didn’t love his wife’s dachshunds, he acted as if he did.

The importance of the dogs was also highlighted when the dogs were included in a painting commissioned by the family by artist Peter Blume (a friend of Kaufmann’s son)
Blume was invited to spend time at Fallingwater with his wife to discuss the commission and they visited on several occasions with their own dog – a puppy at the time. The puppy reportedly jumped over one of the parapets on the bridge side of the living room but survived the fall.

Sketches of the house, family and dogs were done but the Kaufmanns did not purchase the final painting.

The second house I visited was Kentuck Knob, which was commissioned by the Hagan family (close friends of the Kaufmanns).

Mrs Hagan explained in an interview before her death last year (aged 100) “the beauty of living at Kentuck Knob as being truly one with nature, birds, grouse, hens, turkeys and deer were all common visitors to the home”. The family also owned a dog and it was said that he (Rupert) equally enjoyed life in the Usonian house. The site is now owned by Lord Palumbo and although the house is open to the public, the family still live there during periods of the year when tours do not take place.

This allows some insight into the family with art, books and personal mementoes on display including photographs.

These include framed pictures of Lord Palumbo meeting various famous people such as Lady Thatcher, Lady Diana and other dignitaries but amongst these sits a large framed photograph of a happy looking German Shepherd Dog suggesting yet another lucky dog once lived here too!