By Mary F. Roberts
As I watched artisans recently installing the intricate glass fireplace mosaic, the final major element of Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for the Darwin Martin House, I thought, “This is a highlight of an experience I’ll never forget.”
For those exploring the Jewett Parkway area of Buffalo, Wright’s Martin House is a magnificent sight. Some visitors come expressly to explore the historic landmark; others are passersby drawn in by the complex’s intricate design and structural intrigue. Regardless of what brings them there, everyone leaves with a story.
And while many locals have heard of the Martin House, it doesn’t play nearly as large of a role in our community as it should.
The Martin House is brimming with anecdotes and glimpses into the fascinating life of self-made millionaire Darwin D. Martin, who, with his family, made Buffalo his home. Though it’s only two stories high, the Martin House is thousands of stories deep.
Many scholars consider the house one of American architect Wright’s finest architectural achievements, which puts Buffalo on the global cultural map. Despite this, the Martin House is so often left out of the modern-day Buffalo narrative.
In the midst of our city’s explosive cultural rebirth, the Martin House is experiencing a rebirth of its own. Since 1997, the Martin House has been the focus of tremendous restoration efforts to return the complex to its former glory after 50 years of neglect. The project is currently in its fifth and final major stage of restoration, coinciding with what would be Wright’s 150th birthday.
While museums and curated collections have value in piecing together an annotated story of the past, there is something special about stepping into a historic house – a home – preserved as an eternal snapshot of a life and time that embodies the industrious and familial spirit of early Buffalonians.
If you’ve never visited the Martin House, I implore you to do so. If you’re someone who hasn’t visited in many years, I encourage you to pay another visit to marvel at how far the Martin House has come. When family and friends are in town this summer, consider introducing them to this local gem.
Each visitor to the Martin House walks away having experienced its grandeur in a unique, personal way. The walls of the complex hold stories of the past and inspire new stories from visitors of all backgrounds. Our efforts will ensure that future generations are afforded the chance to compose their own Martin House stories for years to come.
Mary F. Roberts is the executive director of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House.