The Darwin D. Martin House

Darwin D. Martin House. Courtesy Martin House Restoration Corporation

Darwin D. Martin


Darwin D. Martin (1865-1935) was an executive at the Larkin Soap Company in Buffalo, New York. Martin first met Frank Lloyd Wright at his studio in 1902 to discuss the commission of a Larkin Administration Building. He was deeply impressed by Wright’s ideas and personality. Because he was also looking for an architect to design a beautiful home for his family, Martin commissioned Wright to build a residential complex on his newly purchased estate located on a 1.5-acre plot at the corner of Jewett Parkway and Summit Avenue in the Parkside neighbourhood of Buffalo, NY.

The Martin House Complex


The Darwin D. Martin House was built between 1903 and 1905. The original complex consisted of six structures: the main Martin house, the Barton House, Carriage House, Pergola, Conservatory, and the Gardener’s Cottage.

The Martin House is an example of Prairie School Style, a critique of the Victorian style of domestic architecture that prevailed in the United States in the 19th century. Prairie Style is identified by horizontally oriented, low-lying dwellings with low-pitched roofs and broad overhanging eaves. Altogether, these features associate the building with the nature of the surrounding mid-west prairie environment.

The ambitious and holistic scope of the Martin House Complex and the way the linked structures and landscape are integrated, down to the smallest details, marks the project as a significant achievement among Wright’s early works. For these reasons, the Martin House is a designated National Historic Landmark.

Aerial View of Darwin D. Martin House
Courtesy Martin House Restoration Corporation

The Martin House Restoration Corporation


The non-profit museum organization called the Martin House Restoration Corporation (MHRC) formed in 1992 to preserve, restore, and promote Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House.

When the MHRC acquired the titles to the property, the house was in a state of disrepair. The house lay vacant between 1937 and 1954 after Darwin D. Martin died and the family could not afford the property taxes during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Numerous furnishings and artifacts, including 200 pieces of art glass, were removed or lost just prior to the family leaving and during this period of abandonment. In 1954, the property was divided and sold to new owners, including developers who demolished the pergola, conservatory, and carriage house to build an apartment building.

The MHRC implemented a $50 million five-phase restoration plan that was fundraised from public and private sources. They completed a reconstruction of the pergola, conservatory, and carriage house in 2007. The 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth in 2017 marks the year in which the majority of the Martin House Complex renovations have been completed.

 

Martin House Dining Room. Photograph by Henry Fuerman, after 1905. Centre Canadien d’Architecture/Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal, PH1983:0205

Darwin D. Martin House Interior View of Dining Room. Photography by Biff Henrich. Courtesy of Martin House Restoration Corporation

 

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