Thanks to a period of extreme prosperity at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, the city of Buffalo, New York became a showcase for the magnificent creations of the starchitects of the time: Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Henry Hobson Richardson, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, and the incomparable, young Frank Lloyd Wright.

Darwin D. Martin brought Wright to Buffalo to design the headquarters of the Larkin Soap Company of which Martin was a senior executive. Wright not only created a unique structure but, in keeping with his belief in “soup to nuts” architecture, he also designed the building’s furniture, light fixtures, and even the china for the workers’ cafeteria.

Martin was so impressed with Wright’s work that he commissioned him to design a home for him and his family that became the Darwin D. Martin House Complex. The residence consisted of five interconnected buildings built between 1903 and 1905 in Wright’s unique Prairie Style: the main 15,000-square-foot Martin House, the smaller Barton House, built for Darwin Martin’s sister and brother-in-law, a carriage house with chauffeur’s quarters and stables, a glass-roofed conservatory that is linked to the main house by a 100-foot pergola, and a gardener’s cottage.

As was his wont, Wright designed all the buildings, the surrounding landscaping, extensive art glass, or “light screens” as he called them, and all the furnishings, resulting in “a totally integrated work of genius”. The Martin family and staff moved in, in 1905, and happily lived in the home until Martin’s death in 1935. Following several owners and many serious calamities, the Martin House Complex was rescued, superbly restored by the local Martin House Restoration Corporation, and opened to the public as an extraordinary example of one of the most famous American architect’s Prairie Style design. The long, low, roofs with their 51/2-foot sheltering eaves and intersecting planes seemingly merge with the land beneath the buildings in Wright’s organic architecture.

Tours introduce the visitor to ceramic floors, double-sided fireplaces that Wright called “hearths”, the center of a house and home; crossed grids and axes that create open spaces; moldings in the ceiling not around walls. Wright placed dozens of colorful Chicago windows of stunning art glass throughout and used warm, “optimistic” autumn colors to complement his geometric rift-sawn oak wood interiors and furniture. The Martin House Complex is an architectural and design treasure not to be missed.

 

143 Jewett Parkway, Buffalo, New York 14214

Tel: (716) 856-3858   www.darwinmartinhouse.org

Hours: Monday: 10:00AM – 4:00PM; Wednesday – Saturday: 10:00AM – 3:00PM; Sunday: 12:00PM – 3:30PM

Admission: Adults: $17. Seniors: $15. Students: $12.

 

 

 

 





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