In a city where grand plans too often become failed visions, it is satisfying to note the success of those who have worked so hard to bring the Darwin Martin House back to life. A 12-year fund-raising marathon ended the other day as the restoration project surpassed its $23 million goal.
It's even more remarkable when you realize the $23 million was reached without any solicitation of the general public. Major amounts came from the county, state and federal governments. Several foundations contributed, with the Wendt Foundation shepherding the project through from its inception. And the private-sector leadership, both in time and money, has set an example for the entire area.
The president of the Darwin Martin House Restoration Corp., Howard Zemsky, and the many others who had a hand in the effort to save Frank Lloyd Wright's master work, deserve to be proud of themselves. We are.
The restoration effort now has enough money to complete work at the Martin House and the rest of the compound. Another $5 million still is needed to build the visitors center being designed by Toshiko Mori, chairwoman of architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, who also heads her own New York City-based architectural firm.
The Martin House is poised to become a Buffalo jewel, one that will attract cultural tourism from all over the world. The visitors center alone will be a jewel -- and a challenge. Putting up a new building next to Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece will require real creativity.
Now it's time for Buffalo and Erie County to take seriously the task of marketing this area's architecture to the world. We have some of the best work of Louis Sullivan, H.H. Richardson and a number of Wright houses. This work also is known to Europeans and the Japanese, as evidenced by the number of visitors to the Martin House from other parts of the world.
Architectural tourists spend far more money than the average tourist. We must recognize that, and have a plan to reach the more than 11 million visitors who travel to Niagara Falls every year, hopefully before many of them get there and the rest at the falls for an impulse trip to Buffalo.
The area's architectural masterpieces can be an economic force for Buffalo, and an all-too-rare source of admiration for our city.