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Allowing Gardener's Cottage to bloom anew In reclaiming a Wright creation, restorers now have final piece of architectural mosaic

The Gardener's Cottage at 285 Woodward Ave. was the last of four residences completed in the complex near Delaware Park that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for Buffalo industrialist Darwin D. Martin in the early 1900s.

Like the structures that preceded it, including the landmark Martin House around the corner on Jewett Parkway, it fell into other hands when the Depression wiped out the Martin family fortune decades later.

Now the Gardener's Cottage is back in the fold, reclaimed by Martin House Restoration Corp. with a $500,000 gift from Stanford Lipsey, publisher of The Buffalo News, and his wife, Judith.

The purchase of the wood-and-stucco building -- the only part of the complex's original footprint that remained outside the corporation's control -- removes the last hurdle in a continuing $33 million effort to return the entire property to pristine condition, as the avatar of Buffalo's rich architectural heritage and a future tourist attraction.

"It was always our wish that the cottage again become part of the complex," said Robert D. Gioia, the restoration group's new chairman. "The challenge has been getting the seller to sell."

Years of patient cultivation by Executive Director John C. Courtin paid off last fall when the group came to terms with cottage owners Nancy M. and John G. Kinsman.

Lipsey put up the money "because of his passion for this project," Gioia said. "He has been one of the key people driving the effort to bring national attention to Buffalo's great architecture and make the city a cultural tourism destination."

The cottage was built with tall rectangular panels to create an illusion of the pier-and-cantilever principle that characterized the Darwin Martin House, according to the Buffalo Architecture Guide.

It is important not only for its design, but as a symbol of American life in the early 1900s, said architect Ted Lownie, who is overseeing restoration of the Martin House complex.

"First, it completes the picture that Wright and Martin created in 1906," he said. "Second, it is valuable for its typology.

"You had the very large Martin House for the wealthy; the Barton House, appropriate for a middle-class family; an apartment in the Carriage House; servants' quarters in the main house; and the very compact Gardener's Cottage.

"The typologies are all there, and don't exist anywhere else in the country on one property designed by one architect."

Restoration of Wright's design will enter the home stretch this month when the last of three 1950s apartment buildings on the Martin House grounds is demolished. Work is continuing on replication of the Carriage House, Conservatory and Pergola. A ribbon-cutting later this year will mark the site's centennial.

e-mail: tbuckham@buffnews.com

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