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Landscape work to restore Wright's full vision for Darwin Martin House

The last Darwin Martin House project began with a ceremonial kickoff Wednesday.

Thanks to the Buffalo Billion economic initiative, the historic landscape designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright is being re-established for the 1.5-acre site. Over 400 tree, shrub, vine and herbaceous plantings are expected to be completed by early November.

For Wright aficionados, rehabilitating the landscape will bring about the full realization of the architect's vision of blurring the lines between interior and exterior spaces by creating buildings in harmony with nature.

"This is an incredibly comprehensive landscape design by Wright that will add a breathtaking dimension to what Wright called 'a domestic symphony,' " said Mary Roberts, the Martin House Restoration Corp.'s executive director.

"You can't fully understand Wright's intentions until the landscape is back again," she said. "It will be one of the most notable components of the restoration."

Wright's "floricycle" includes ornamental shrubs, trellises and vines on the house, and urn, fountain and window-box plantings. Perennial greens and English border gardens will once again flank the pergola, in contrast to naturalistic plantings outlining the boundaries of the estate.

Wright worked on the landscape closely with Walter Burley Griffin, an apprentice who became an accomplished landscape architect in his own right.

"It was one of the first times Wright had the opportunity to design extensive plantings and gardens," Roberts said. "Every building, every area has some component of landscape associated with it."

Wisteria, one of Wright's signature plants used on the grounds, also was visible in the art glass windows and central fireplace mosaic he designed.

"This historic landscape restoration project enhances the incredible architecture and distinct character of the Darwin Martin estate in Buffalo's Parkside neighborhood," said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who was on hand to tout the governor's role in making the landscape work possible.

"The improvements to the grounds and buildings will elevate the experience at one of Frank Lloyd Wright's greatest engineering achievements," she said.

Restoration of the 113-year-old Martin House was completed, with a small number of final decorative touches being pursued according to Wright's furnishing plan. The George Barton House, a secondary residence, is expected to be finished by the first week of July, Roberts said.

[Extravagant fireplace completes Darwin Martin House's first-floor restoration]

Planned improvements include site lighting, signage, a courtyard cafe and the return of street trees along the borders of Jewett Parkway and Summit Avenue in conjunction with the City of Buffalo.

The cost to re-create the site's landscape and features is $2 million. It was paid for as part of a $5 million grant from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's Buffalo Billion 2 economic program, bringing the state's contribution to $24 million.

The total cost to restore the Martin House, Barton House and Gardener's Cottage, replicate the pergola, conservatory and carriage house and build the visitor Greatbatch Pavilion designed by architect Toshiko Mori and bring back the landscaping is $50 million.

Determining the plantings required considerable academic study and research, Roberts said. That included a comprehensive, 240-page cultural landscape report that can be viewed at martinhouse.org.

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