Rendering of Graycliff Estate visitors center

Empire State Development Announces Frank Lloyd Wright’s Historic Graycliff to Move Visitor Center Project Forward

Project Builds on Governor Hochul’s Commitment to Supporting New York’s Tourism Industry

Visitor Center Expected to be Complete in Time for the 100th Anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Beautiful Lakeside Property

See Rendering of the Visitor Center Here

Empire State Development (ESD) today announced the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Graycliff Estate will be adding a new visitor center to complement the recently renovated historic home and surrounding property, improving the 8-acre site’s visitor experience, and better telling the story of Darwin and Isabelle Martin’s spectacular summer home on Lake Erie. The project, located at 6472 Old Lakeshore Road in Derby, includes a complete renovation and expansion of the existing visitor center building to create a new 4,400 square foot, state-of-the-art building that will significantly increase Graycliff’s capacity to offer additional and year-round programming, events, and amenities for the steadily growing base of visitors, as well as support staff and volunteers in a variety of ways. 

“The magnificent Frank Lloyd Wright properties are an important part of New York's rich architectural heritage and scenic beauty. The Graycliff Visitor Center project builds upon Governor Hochul’s efforts to grow the tourism economy in New York by supporting and expanding our unique destinations,” said ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight. “Thanks to investment from New York State, along with many individuals and charitable foundations, the new Visitor Center will complement the completed Graycliff restoration projects and add to the number of sightseers drawn to Western New York from across the state and around the world.”

New York State Council on the Arts Executive Director Erika Mallin said, “We are grateful to Governor Hochul and the Legislature for their support. These projects are essential to the prosperity and well-being of our creative industry and our communities, especially as we continue to navigate the recovery of our creative sector. This support will help stimulate local economies, catalyze investment in our communities and help to ensure the vibrancy of our cultural organizations for now and for the future. Congratulations to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff, NYSCA is a proud supporter of your contributions to New York’s arts and culture.”

The Visitor Center project has come together with extensive state support from a variety of sources, including $1.25 million from the New York State Council on the Arts, $1 million from Empire State Development and more than $1 million from the New York Power Authority.  New York State previously helped set the stage for the new Visitor Center by investing in the renovation of the house and grounds. Photographs of the Graycliff Estate restoration project can be seen here. 

In addition to this funding, New York State Senator Sean Ryan recently added $300,000 to an earlier award of $250,000 to help bridge the funding gap and ensure a groundbreaking for the Visitor’s Center.

Senator Sean M. Ryan said, “Buffalo and Western New York have long been a destination for architectural tourism, and it has become an increasingly significant contributor to our local economy. Our region is home to a wide variety of internationally recognized architectural gems, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff is one of our region’s most beloved historic cultural assets, drawing admirers from around the world. The new Visitor Center will help Graycliff provide an even more memorable experience to the estate’s many visitors each year. I was proud to support this project in its early days and look forward to seeing the finished product.”

Overall, the $4 million multipurpose addition (nearly 2,800 square feet), leverages an existing concrete block gymnasium building that was built by the Piarist Fathers, who purchased the site in the 1950s. The former gymnasium serves as the current visitor center, and in the new design it will be upgraded to house an expanded gift shop, ticketing area, exhibit space, an indoor-outdoor cafe doubling as an event space, an administration area that includes a docent lounge and restrooms. Extending outward from the original structure, an open, light-filled lobby space creates a new face for the building and center for rotating exhibits, workshops, lectures, presentations, special events, and meetings.  The plan is to have a groundbreaking in the fall of 2024 and open the new building during the 2026 season, in time to celebrate the centennial anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for the property. 

Graycliff Estate Executive Director Anna Kaplan said, “This is a success story made possible by true community commitment. The project is absolutely critical to Graycliff and could not be happening at a better time. The Visitor Center will greatly impact our ability to not only showcase this remarkable regional asset, but to be a dynamic community partner.”

The Graycliff conservancy tapped SITU, a Brooklyn-based architectural firm working with HHL Architects of Buffalo, to design the building and exhibition space. Bayer Landscape Architecture, located near Rochester, will design the landscaping. 

SITU Founding Partner Basar Girit said, “We are very excited to be part of the team shaping the next chapter of this historic site. Our design for the new Visitor Center seeks to augment the original Wright and Shipman vision with a contemporary approach guided by programmatic flexibility and environmental sustainability. The highly adaptable architecture is deeply integrated into the landscape in order to stimulate opportunities for indoor and outdoor programming. We are confident that the Visitor Center will continue to allow for Graycliff to be a vibrant cultural destination in the region for decades to come.”

The Visitor Center is the first phase in a larger project that includes not only the building itself, but the approach to the historic site, including revitalization of what is known of the historic plant life. The landscaping plan includes restoring an orchard and vegetable garden and providing landscaped pathways from the parking lot to the visitor center. The parking lot would be interspersed with shrubs and plants. Designers intend the planned visitor center, with its seamless starting point to enter the estate, to encourage people to stay longer.

Graycliff Conservancy Board President Charles LeFevre said, “The recent significant New York State funding added to major commitments backed by Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz—an initial $500,000 in Erie County cultural capital project support supplemented by $250,000 directed by the office of Legislator John Mills. Private support from The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation, The Baird Foundation, East Hill Foundation, Thomas Hagen, The M&T Charitable Foundation, The Walter E. Schmid Family Foundation, and many others has also been committed.” 

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “Graycliff is an internationally known treasure that draws visitors from far and wide, and the new Visitor Center will fit beautifully into the site’s footprint as a welcoming place for guests to begin their exploration of the Martin’s summer home. Erie County is proud to have committed $500,000 towards the project and support the continuing growth and restoration of the historic and irreplaceable Graycliff complex.”

Minority Leader and Erie County Legislator John Mills said, “Frank Lloyd Wright is known worldwide for his architectural genius, including the spectacular Graycliff Estate. Staff and volunteers have worked for years to restore this true treasure and I am proud to support their efforts. Having an expanded Visitor Center on the grounds of Graycliff will allow them to better showcase this incredible asset for tourists from all over the world to enjoy for generations to come.”

Graycliff was designed in 1926 by Frank Lloyd Wright, and built between 1927-1929 for Isabelle R. Martin, wife of industrialist Darwin Martin, as a summer home for the family on the bluffs above Lake Erie. The eight and a half-acre Graycliff property now looks as it did when it was enjoyed by the Martin family in the 1930s. 

To experience Graycliff in its fully restored glory and to reserve your place on a tour, visit or call (716) 947-9217.

About Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959) 

Frank Lloyd Wright is internationally recognized as one of the most important figures in 20th century architecture and design. His genius is marked by his vision to create a new form of American architecture based on the open landscape of the Midwestern Prairie. Wright redefined traditional concepts of space by physically and spiritually connecting the built environment to the natural world. He is best known for his “prairie style” homes, efficient office buildings, and innovative furniture and decorative designs. 

About Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff

The nonprofit Graycliff Conservancy, a 501©(3), is dedicated to the preservation of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structures and grounds, along with the Ellen Biddle Shipman-designed gardens and landscape, that comprise Graycliff, the summer retreat of Isabelle & Darwin Martin of Buffalo, NY (designed in 1926 and built between 1927 and 1931). Graycliff is located 20 minutes south of downtown Buffalo at 6472 Old Lake Shore Road, Derby, NY 14072. For more information, please visit and find us on Facebook and Instagram @flwgraycliff.

About Empire State Development

Empire State Development (ESD) is New York’s chief economic development agency ( The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through the use of loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York State. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing the Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of “I LOVE NY” the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit and

Pamm Lent (ESD) | [email protected] | (716) 846-8309 | (800) 260-7313
Laura Magee (ESD) | [email protected] | (716) 846-8239 | (800) 260-7313