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Preservation Board votes to landmark two Frank Lloyd Wright homes

Two Buffalo houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright were recommended for local landmark designation Thursday by the Buffalo Preservation Board.

The 8-0 vote to landmark the William R. Heath House, at 76 Soldiers Circle, and a 7-1 decision to give the same preservation protections to the Walter V. Davidson House, at 57 Tillinghast Place, came despite the owners' objections.

"If you were starting a hall of fame of Buffalo architecture, these would have been on your inaugural list," said Tim Tielman, a recent Preservation Board member and the executive director of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo.

The board's recommendations will now go to the full Common Council, which will hold a public hearing before reaching a decision.

The homes were determined to meet seven of the nine criteria for landmarking, when just one was required.

Board Chairman Paul McDonnell said the current owners have been good stewards, but local landmarking was needed to ensure future owners also respected the historic properties.

But Nancy Schmid, who has owned the Heath House for 50 years, said she did not welcome the added tourist attention she feared landmarking could bring.

"It's a private place and I don't want people and buses coming over," Schmid said. "I have my daughter and my son who live there, and it's our private home."

Schmid said she deserved added consideration because she had been a good steward of the house since taking ownership in 1968.

"I've been very loyal to Frank Lloyd Wright and I haven't changed a thing," Schmid said. "We are very proud of our place and I just wish you would respect our privacy and see that we are doing everything we can to preserve the house."

Russ Maxwell, owner of the Davidson House and a former member of the Preservation Board, also considered the landmark designation to be intrusive.

"This pursuit by the Buffalo Preservation Board does not have my support," Maxwell said. "I may consider seeking such a designation at an appropriate time, but that time has not arrived. The property at 57 Tillinghast is in the finest condition in its 110-year history."

McDonnell, the board chairman, and fellow board member Gwen Howard said the board is often criticized for not being more proactive in landmarking historic properties, especially when historic properties come before them in deteriorating condition.

Terry Robinson, another board member, expressed sympathy for the owners' positions and was the lone dissenting vote on the Davidson House.

The board's Richard Lippes argued the board's mandate was to make decisions based solely on the landmarking criteria.

Should Buffalo landmark 'other' Frank Lloyd Wright houses? Owners say no.

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