ESD Announces Substantial Completion of Restoration at Historic Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed Darwin Martin House in Buffalo

Unveiling of restored four-sided glass mosaic fireplace is capstone for project

June 2, 2017

See images here and b-roll of the fireplace being installed and completed project here

Empire State Development today announced that, with the unveiling of the restored Wisteria Mosaic Fireplace, the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House in Buffalo is substantially complete. The Martin House, a National Historic Landmark and New York State Historic Site, is an expansive example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s integrated design philosophy, unifying multiple structures with interior furnishings, decorative elements, extensive art glass and exterior landscape design.

“The Martin House is a crown jewel in Buffalo, a city known as a world-class destination for architecture enthusiasts,” said ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky. “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Western New York masterpiece has always been a sight to behold and with the unveiling of this beautiful glass mosaic fireplace, it's better than ever. I am proud that Buffalo Billion II funds are pushing this project across the finish line.”

The total estimated cost of this ambitious restoration project is $50 million, which includes design and construction of a visitor center – the Eleanor and Wilson Greatbatch Pavilion – an award winning building adjacent to the historic site. The restoration effort was supported by $24 million in funding from New York State, beginning in 1993. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo closed the gap on capital funding as part of a recent $5 million commitment included in this year’s Buffalo Billion II awards. Those final funds will be used primarily to rehabilitate the historic landscape and to preserve the Barton House, a secondary residence on the estate.

“From the very beginning of the Martin House restoration effort, New York State has been a strategic partner and major supporter,” said Mary Roberts, Executive Director of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House.  “With a fully restored first floor now enhanced by the signature fireplace mosaic, the state’s investment in the Martin House can be full appreciated by visitors from around the world.”  

Located on a 1.5 acre site in the historic Parkside neighborhood, the 15,000 square foot Martin House has been painstakingly restored to its condition of 1907, with extensive original Wright furnishings as well as elaborate built-in cabinetry and wood trim. Three structures attached to the Martin House, an open-air pergola, a conservatory and carriage house that were demolished in the 1960’s to make way for an apartment complex, were reconstructed in recent years, also funded in part by New York State. 

The central fireplace, one of four in the Martin House, was unveiled at a ceremony this morning. The welcoming four-sided fireplace serves multiple purposes as a massive, yet open, spatial partition between the entry hall and unit room; the symbolic and literal anchoring hearth of the home; and the “canvas” for an elaborately decorated work of art consisting of thousands of individual glass tiles in a warm palette of bronzes, golds, and greens. The artisan mosaic is a naturalistic depiction of wisteria branches, leaves, and blossoms. Botti Studio of Architectural Arts, Inc. of Evanston, Illinois restored the fireplace, in consultation with a restoration architects at HHL Architects of Buffalo. A small percentage of the original tile pieces survived decades of neglect and the eventual collapse of the fireplace and are incorporated into the restored mosaic. 

Funding for the Martin House restoration project has come from a unique partnership of public and private resources: federal, state and local governments, various foundations, corporations, and numerous private donors at all levels.  With its national and international appeal, the Martin House is widely recognized as a pivotal component of the Western New York economic development initiative that is focused on tourism investments.  The site already attracts in excess of 30,000 visitors annually, with 75 percent of guests coming from outside Western New York, including a significant international component.  Economic analysts have projected that the restored site will generate nearly $20 million of annual economic impact for the region and the state.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey said, “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House Complex is a true celebration of New York’s rich and diverse history.  This architectural masterpiece has been recognized for decades and with this restoration Governor Cuomo, Empire State Development and all of our historic preservation and community partners are ensuring it will be appreciated and treasured for generations to come.”

New York Power Authority President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones said, “NYPA is proud to have contributed to the restoration of the Darwin Martin House.  The house stands as an architectural marvel and it’s important that we ensure it remains a significant cultural destination for tourists visiting Western New York.”

New York State Council on the Arts Chair Dr. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel said, “The Darwin Martin House, a remarkable residential complex by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright is now, once again, a jewel in the architectural crown of our state, thanks to the restoration efforts of many strategic partners, including the University at Buffalo-SUNY, the Martin House Restoration Conservancy, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, numerous architects and craftspeople, and the leadership of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. Wright’s striking, integrated ensemble of original buildings, accompanied by a new visitors' center, now serves as an economic engine of cultural tourism, an educational resource for local residents, and a fine example of how cultural, architectural, and historic assets bring real benefits to our communities. NYSCA is proud to provide operating support for this outstanding endeavor."

NYSERDA President and CEO John B. Rhodes said, “The Martin House project serves as a wonderful example of how public-private partnerships are restoring historical sites that showcase New York’s magnificent history.  The Martin House is representative of the various activities that visitors to Western New York can see and experience and another reason why Western New York should be included in any travel plans this summer.”

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House is an international destination for architectural enthusiasts for its breathtaking beauty and unique design. It’s important to preserve and protect New York State’s historic sites that have shaped our rich culture and support our economy. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s historic $300 million commitment to the Environmental Protection Fund, this extraordinary piece of New York’s history will be preserved for future generations to enjoy,”

In celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Wright’s birth on June 8, the Martin House will host a series of events to commemorate and recognize America’s greatest architect in collaboration with the Graycliff Conservancy, which manages the Martin’s summer home, a public site in Derby, NY.  A variety of interactive experiences and special programming inspired by the Frank Lloyd Wright and Darwin D. Martin story will take place in Buffalo during the 150 hours surrounding the anniversary.  The events (June 5-11, 2017) will bring design-enthusiasts, architectural tourists, Wright fans, and the community alike into a world of all-things-Wright.

On a national level, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City is launching a retrospective exhibit entitled Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive.  In conjunction with MoMA, the Martin House is hosting six of the exhibit curators in a speaker series that will activate the 150 Hours event on June 5.  The first speaker is the exhibition’s lead curator, Berry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History at Columbia University and curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA.  The other five curators will present monthly through October 2017. To conclude the lecture series, a panel discussion will take place in October, wherein leading critics will examine Wright’s key architectural writings and the state of architectural criticism today.

HHL Architects Associate Jamie Robideau said, “The meticulously recreated glass mosaic is a focal centerpiece and a bridge with nature; It reflects and unites the varied materials and robust colors of Wright’s design and nature’s palette beyond. “ 

Martin House Board Chair Robert J. Kresse said, “If you are a citizen of Buffalo, and aware of what we have done at the Martin House, you should be very proud.  We are reversing history, and for the first time in over seventy years, visitors will be able to fully see what Wright’s legacy was all about.” 

Martin House Board President Keith M. Stolzenburg said, “Tourism is an important economic driver for New York.  The state’s investment in this world class architectural destination will pay dividends for our community and our state for decades to come.”

City of Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said, "I thank Governor Cuomo for his continued commitment through the Buffalo Billion II to the Darwin Martin House restoration project. The State providing $5 million allows for the completion of this architectural treasure. Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House is a real Buffalo asset, and the completion of its $50 million restoration is another example of the great progress we're making in Buffalo."

Senator Chris Jacobs said, “Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Martin House is a world renowned architectural gem. Today's unveiling is a testament to the commitment and perseverance of our community to restore this National Historic Landmark.”

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “I would like to congratulate Mary Roberts and the entire Martin House Restoration Corporation team and it’s wealth of public-private partners in realizing the completion of their dream. This has been decades in the making, and is truly one of WNY’s most notable attractions. It is extremely fitting that the restoration has been completed in time to celebrate and commemorate the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright. I also thank Governor Cuomo and my colleagues in government for voting in favor of the Buffalo Billion II and making these funds possible,”

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 the Martin House
The Martin House, designed and built from 1903-05, is considered by Wright scholars to be a significant turning point in the evolution of the Prairie house concept.  The original complex consisted of the main Martin House, pergola, conservatory and carriage house, the Barton House and a gardener’s cottage, totaling nearly 32,000 square feet.  Wright called the Martin House his “opus,” and had plans tacked above his drafting board for decades.  Reconstruction of the pergola, conservatory and carriage house was completed in early 2007 in the most ambitious restoration of demolished Wright buildings ever undertaken.

The Martin House Restoration Corporation is a New York not-for-profit corporation founded in 1992.  It has a 30-member board of directors and approximately 400 active volunteers.  The historic Martin House site is open for tours year round.  More information about this Nation Historic Landmark, including tour information, can be found at www.darwinmartinhouse.org.

 

Contact:
Pamm Lent | [email protected] | (716) 846-8309 | (800) 260-7313