As the tour group moved into the living room Saturday of the Frank Lloyd Wright house on Tillinghast Place, there was an audible gasp. And that's exactly the effect Wright would have wanted.
"When you entered this room and looked up, he wanted your attention going skyward," the tour guide said. "This would be his light or sun gallery."
The living room, which featured a three-sided window bay made entirely of leaded glass, is a dramatic change from the low-ceilinged entryway and dining room -- an effect the architect used in many of his houses.
One of two privately owned Wright-designed homes not regularly open to the public, the Walter V. Davidson House was included in a tour of six residences open this weekend as part of a fund-raising effort of the Graycliff Conservancy, an organization working to save Graycliff, another Wright house, on the shoreline of Lake Erie in Derby.
Alicia Meyers, a volunteer with the conservancy, said about 250 visitors were expected to tour the homes, which included two of Wright's more celebrated residences, the Darwin Martin House and the George Barton House, as well as Graycliff in Derby and the Boynton House in Rochester.
The William R. Heath House on Soldier's Place, another privately owned Wright residence, also was open Saturday. The red-brick house, built for a Larkin Co. vice president, is a prairie-style forerunner of Wright's famed Robie House in Chicago.
The tour, Meyers said, is "part of an effort to increase awareness of the architectural treasures we have in Buffalo."
Some visitors came from as far away as Montreal and Germany.
Dan Hall of Buffalo said he has visited other Wright homes in other cities.
"I like Frank Lloyd Wright," he said. "We've looked at his work in other cities. I'm a civil engineer, and I've been interested in his work for a long time."
The Davidson House, designed in 1908, employs the prairie-style design that is common of other Wright designs, but is different in many respects. Made of stucco and wood, not masonry, the house features a two-story living room, and a bed and kitchen wing spanning two floors.
At the time it was built, the house, now nestled into a tree-shaded residential street in North Buffalo, was in a suburban area with no houses nearby.
While the Davidson house contains no Wright-designed furniture, the dining room has built-in china and buffet cabinets -- features, Wright is reported to have said, that made a house "client proof."
The Davidson house also boasts a veranda as an extension of the living room.
While the veranda -- a symmetrical counterpart to the dining room -- now has screens, it originally was designed to be open.
Proceeds from the tours and a Saturday dinner will benefit the restoration of Graycliff, the lakeshore cottage Wright designed for Darwin and Isabelle Martin in 1926, more than two decades after he created the Martin House on Jewett Parkway.