Interiors and Exteriors
Art and Design
Objects and Antiquities

Tuesday, March 5


The Martin House complex is Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece in the Prairie School style.  Comprising 6 buildings including Martin house, Barton house, the conservatory, pergola, carriage and gardener's house, it is both beautiful and alien in a quiet Buffalo neighbourhood.  Completed in 1907 it must have seemed quite shocking to Edwardian eyes, out of place with the surrounding boxy two stories.  Using techniques developed for early skyscrapers, the steel construction allowed for a openness and freedom in the interior plan.  The strong horizontal lines, heavy overhang, and natural palette are intended to evoke a calming influence.  We did not make it inside during our visit but I did take a tour about 5 years ago during the extensive restoration.

The Martin family left the complex after the death of their patriarch in 1937 and the house lay vacant until  1954.  In 1962 the pergola, conservatory and carriage house were demolished and it wasn't until 1986 that the site was listed as a national historic landmark.  Restoration began in 1997, the intent to take the house back to its 1907 state.  On the tour the docent told a story of Mrs. Martin's conflicts with Wright and how he refused to sacrifice his design to allow more sunlight to enter her sewing room.  After the architect left, she had an exterior wall moved to minimize the overhang and allow more light (the restoration committee decided to move the wall back to Wright's original plan.)  During my previous visit the conservatory and pergola were yet to be rebuilt.  What a pleasure to see the restoration realized, and the site brought to its former glory.

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