Friday morning (5/16) I had my breakfast on the steps of the Stone Tolan House, The Landmark Society’s 1790/1820 house museum in Brighton. It was about 7 am as I sipped my coffee and watched 45 people pile onto the bus to go to Buffalo to tour the Darwin Martin House and Graycliff, both designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. To this point I had only ever driven past/through Buffalo on the highway and was excited to see something of the city. As far as Frank goes, I have been to Taliesin West and driven past the Boynton House in Rochester, but had never been inside any of his commissioned houses. Cap the day off with lunch at the Roycroft Inn and I was in for an exciting day.
The Darwin Martin House was indeed spectacular. Not only because of the architecture but because of the story of survival and resurrection of the complex. The main house was constructed in 1905 and abandoned in 1937, other buildings on the site – such as the carriage house – were demolished in 1962 for construction of apartments, the University of Buffalo owned the structures for a while, and finally the site was turned over to the Martin House Restoration Corporation in 2002 and reconstruction of the demolished buildings began soon after. The neglect is still apparent in the main house as windows are undergoing repair, flooring is missing and inappropriate treatments are being dismantled and removed. The long, horizontal lines of the building, the Roman brick courses, the concrete Purple Martin houses (where Purple Martin have never lived) are stunning. A $50 million restoration effort is underway, something that preservationists have only ever dreamed about. To be able to view this progress was tremendous.
A short bus ride later we were in East Aurora having lunch at the Roycroft Inn, home of the Arts and Crafts movement in America. The Landmark Society was instrumental in preserving the Inn and seeing it restored and brought back to service years ago. It was a happy partnership to contemplate as we listened to a history of the complex and the town. Lunch was delicious.
We spent the afternoon at Graycliff, the summer home of the Darwin Martin family overlooking Lake Erie. This home is also in the middle of a substantial and inspiring restoration. On the deck off the bedroom on the second floor the numbers can still be seen on the stone work from the meticulous dismantling and reassembling that took place. The tour guides were all animated and knowledgeable with great stories of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ego driven design versus Isabelle Martin’s needs and desires for form and function in her home. It was a satisfying, educational and inspirational day.
Then on Saturday morning (5/17) I walked over to Ellwanger Garden to spend a few hours “working” in the Garden. It was sunny off and on and rainy off and on but in just a few short hours Beverly Gibson and I had seen 90 people through the Garden. The tree peonies, tulips and lily-of-the-valley are stunning. I couldn’t help thinking as I was leaving that afternoon – I can’t believe how lucky I am to get to do these fun things for a living, to get to spend time in such beautiful places, to see this history preserved and enjoyed.
What a great weekend.
written by Rebecca Rowe, Preservation Program Coordinator for The Landmark Society