Western New York affords visitors the rare opportunity to experience a variety of Wright’s residential, functional, recreational, and monumental designs — both historic and newly constructed. Join the Darwin Martin House and friends for an all-inclusive All Wright All Day package, which begins at historic Forest Lawn and proceeds by fully-enclosed, climate-controlled trolley to the Martin House Complex for an extended tour.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Martin House Complex, the multi-structure estate (1903-05) that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for Darwin D. Martin, is a masterpiece of 20th century architecture. The Martin House is widely considered one of Wright’s finest Prairie Houses — a signature work from the early years of his celebrated career. Wright himself referred to the Martin House complex as “the opus” and kept the site plan pinned to his drawing table for close to fifty years.
The next stop on your tour is the Filling Station designed by Wright for Buffalo in 1927 and built in 2013 inside the Pierce Arrow Museum. Then it’s on to the Fontana Boathouse (2007) on the Black Rock Canal for an in-depth tour. Designed in 1905 for the University of Wisconsin as a working boathouse, but never built, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rowing Boathouse was one of his most prized designs. In 2000, three long time rowing friends had the vision of this boathouse on the shores of the Niagara River where it meets Lake Erie. After many years of fundraising, negotiations and construction, the Boathouse opened in 2007 and today stands as one of the most unique architectural Wright designs — his only boathouse design.
After a delicious catered lunch at the Boathouse the day continues with an extended tour of the Graycliff Estate (1926-31). The Graycliff Estate was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright between 1926-31 for Isabelle R. Martin, wife of industrialist Darwin Martin. The family owned the property until, after the deaths of Isabelle and Darwin Martin, their descendents sold the property (c. 1951) to the Piarist Fathers, an order of Roman Catholic Priests from Hungary, who used Graycliff as their motherhouse. The Fathers altered the property substantially for their own uses, adding additional buildings and structures that obscured Wright’s vision for nearly fifty years. In 1997, with only a handful of elderly priests remaining, they put Graycliff up for sale.
Although many people considered purchasing Graycliff, the only offer the Fathers received was from a developer, who wished to tear down the buildings to build condominiums on the prime lake front location. Carol Bronnenkant and her family were among those who looked at the property. Fearing its demise, Bronnenkant called several public meetings to ask the public to save Graycliff. From those meetings, the Graycliff Conservancy was born. Incorporated as a non-profit shortly thereafter, the Conservancy was founded specifically to acquire, preserve, restore and make accessible to the public the Graycliff Estate. A true grass-roots success story, in a little over a decade, the Graycliff Conservancy has acquired the property, completed well over half of all restoration, and created the Pavilion Visitor Center to welcome thousands of visitors annually.
Your tour concludes with a return to Forest Lawn to visit the Blue Sky Mausoleum (2004). A knowledgeable guide will be on hand to point out architectural treasures along the way including the site of the Larkin Administration Building (1904) and manufacturing buildings in an area now known as Larkinville. The 2014 All Wright All Day Tour is offered July 18th, July 31st, August 8th, August 22nd, September 12th, September 26th, October 9th, and October 24th and runs all day from 8:30 AM – 5:15 PM. Reservations close at 8:00 AM three days in advance of the tour. Space is limited and they do sell out so be sure to call ahead and make your reservations today!
And, when you’re viewing these incredible structures, think about me while you’re there because Wright will forever be my favorite architect (for all of you guys giving me grief about not TRULY loving the Arts and Crafts style, I say to you, pshaw.)
Visit www.darwinmartinhouse.org to reserve your tickets today and have fun exploring!