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Editorial: Graycliff restoration will add to architectural heritage

It’s been a long time coming for Graycliff, the Frank Lloyd Wright delight that has been overshadowed by its better known and more centrally located sibling, the Darwin Martin House.

While the Martin House, in Buffalo’s Parkside neighborhood, has long attracted money and attention to its restoration, work at Graycliff, on the Lake Erie shoreline in Derby, has proceeded more slowly. Both homes were built by Wright and were commissioned by Martin, a Buffalo businessman.

That’s about to change. As another benefit of the Buffalo Billion, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s program to revive the economy of Buffalo and its surroundings, Albany is planning to provide $3.7 million to complete the interior, landscaping and beach access work on the 8.5 acre estate. And, happily for the area’s Wright fans, the state will provide additional funding to complete work at the Buffalo house.

These dollars represent an acknowledgement that Buffalo’s revival is tied to its past as well as the future, as represented by the RiverBend project in South Buffalo. As Howard Zemsky, president of Empire State Development observed about the state’s approach to economic development here, “Our whole strategy is taking advantage of what’s unique in Buffalo and Western New York.”

Indeed, Buffalo is home to a treasure trove of great architecture, not all of it well cared for over the decades. That has changed. Most prominently, the state devoted millions of dollars to the restoration of the Richardson Olmsted Complex, where the Hotel Henry has recently opened. Both the Frank Lloyd Wright houses have also required extensive work to restore them to the brilliance of the architect’s vision.

But it’s happened, through years of persistence and patience and, now, through the state’s understanding of the significance that these places hold to Buffalo’s ability to attract visitors and economic development.

As photos in Tuesday’s editions of The Buffalo News showed, Graycliff is well named. It is perched only yards away from a precipice overlooking Lake Erie. A 60-foot flight of steps that allowed the family to descend to the water will be restored and reconnected to the cliffside. Stabilization work will also be done on the cliff.

The investment in these properties will pay off for decades to come.
The city’s great architecture is fused with its character. It’s key to the ongoing story that the Buffalo Billion is helping to write.

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