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Executive director named to guide restoration at Graycliff

Graycliff Estate has a new executive director as it pursues the restoration of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed retreat in Derby.

Robert F. Wooler, most recently director of the Nonprofit Partnership in Erie, began work for the Graycliff Conservancy on May 23 after four decades of executive planning, administration, grant writing, communications and marketing experience.

“I look forward to completing – with the help of the whole Graycliff family – the restoration of the interior of the house, as well as celebrating the new arrivals coming to the Graycliff estate this summer,” Wooler said.

Wooler’s experience includes being a founder and administrator of the Blackstone Academy Charter School in Pawtucket, R.I., and serving several education-related organizations where he focused on developing arts programs. He is also founder and president of the Friends of Midway State Park, a Chautauqua Lake area non-profit organization that has helped restore the children’s amusement park, and was an active member of the Committee to Save the Historic Chautauqua Amphitheater.

Wooler, a long-time Graycliff Conservancy member, lives in an Arts and Crafts bungalow in Maple Springs, in Chautauqua County, which was built and lived in by Oscar S. Lang, Frank Lloyd Wright’s general contractor for Buffalo’s Darwin Martin house.

During the last 16 years, the Graycliff Conservancy has purchased the Graycliff property, which was owned by the Darwin Martin family, removed nonhistoric buildings and made structural repairs to all three of the Wright-designed buildings, and completed restoration of the building exteriors.

Plans are to complete the remaining interior work in 2017. Furnishing the house and completing the restoration of the 8.5-acre landscape would be left to complete Graycliff.

The estate, which was completed in 1931, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated New York State Landmark.

Wooler succeeds Reine Hauser. During Hauser’s 12-year tenure, annual tour admissions tripled, memberships doubled and more than $4 million was invested in the historic structures and landscape.

Graycliff also has two new additions: A 1927 Pierce Arrow four-door sedan, on loan from the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum, now sits in the garage of the Foster House, reflecting the Martins’ taste in cars and the elegant opulence of the era before the stock market crashed in 1929.

The Graycliff board of directors has also just acquired at auction a Louise Allen statue, “Pippa Passes.” It’s an authentic copy of the statue inspired by the Robert Browning poem that was a Christmas gift from Darwin to Isabelle Martin. It graced the living room at Graycliff during the years the Martin family was in residence.

email: msommer@buffnews.com