Located in a residential area of Buffalo only two blocks from the Buffalo Zoo, you’ll find one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most heralded homes: the Martin House.
Known officially as the Darwin D. Martin House, this home was designed by Wright in 1902 and constructed between 1903 and 1905. It is considered by many to be the most important work of the first half of his career and among the best works of his life, along with the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and Fallingwater in southwestern Pennsylvania.
The Martins lived in the home for three decades. However, they lost most of their fortune in the 1929 stock market crash and abandoned the home in 1937. It sat vacant for several decades before being used as an apartment and a home of the president of the University of Buffalo.
During this time, three of Wright’s original seven structures on the property were demolished.
In the 1990s, the Martin House Restoration Corporation was set up to work on restoring the complex. Over the coming years, $50 million was put into restoring the Martin House complex, including rebuilding the three structures that were torn down. The restoration was completed in 2017, and visitors can now explore this amazing area as it would have looked in 1907.
Today, visitors can tour this important historical site and learn about its design, the Martin family, and the complex’s impact on Wright’s career.
Tours of the 1.5-acre complex start in the modern visitor center with a 10-minute video that tells the history of the site and the Martin family. This offers a great introduction to the complex and is very well done.
A variety of tours are offered of the Martin House, though most visitors opt to take the self-guided tour of the property. If you do the self-guided tour, docents are available throughout the home to answer any questions you might have.
These self-guided tours grant you access to the first floor of the Martin House, as well as the pergola, conservatory, and carriage house. If you want to see the other buildings on the property, such as the Barton House and the Gardener’s Cottage, you’ll have to sign up for one of their guided Plus Tours.
The most notable aspect of touring the Martin House is the amount of detail Wright went into when designing the home. In fact, there are nearly 350 windows in the home that Wright designed, many with incredibly intricate detail.
Also of note is the amount of furniture in the property that Wright designed. While many of the pieces were removed from the home over the years, there are a good number of pieces that were original to the home that have been gifted to the property over the years. This really gives visitors the chance to fully appreciate the vision that Wright and Martin had for the home.
I also really enjoyed the Japanese design elements throughout the home. While designing the Martin House, Wright went to Japan for the first time, and there are many examples of its influence on his design throughout the home.
Unfortunately, photos aren’t allowed inside the home on regular tours, so I wasn’t able to capture any images from inside the Martin House. I’d definitely love to visit again in the future for a Photography Tour to take some photos of the interior.
In addition to the main home, visitors can tour the pergola that connects the home to the conservatory. This structure is open-air but features 11 cutouts that act as windows while walking down the hallway.
The conservatory at the end of the pergola was designed as a greenhouse for the property (which originally had a full-time gardener). Today, it’s a beautiful space that still holds some fun and unique plants and statues. Inside the conservatory, you’ll also find a small cafe if you are feeling peckish after your tour.
In addition to these structures, visitors can also step inside the carriage house on the property. This was originally designed for the Martins’ two horses but today is the location of the complex’s gift shop.
Overall, the Martin House is a fantastic spot to visit in Buffalo and feels like a hidden gem even though it’s located in the middle of a residential historic district.
Even if you, like me, have been to several other Wright homes in the past, the Martin House Complex is worth checking out for its great glimpse into the early career of Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as for its beautiful design.
Note: My visit to the Martin House was hosted by the site. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Hours: Hours vary. See website.
Cost: Adults: $15, Children: $10
Address: 125 Jewett Pkwy