Legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright engineered an architectural revolution in the late 19th century that blended natural surroundings with modern ingenuity. His organic designs focus on harmony between humans and environment, and they can be found all over the globe. But it's Buffalo that is home to six of his design homes, including the Darwin Martin Complex. This building is often praised as one of his greatest works.
A view of the Darwin Martin House — Photo courtesy of Darwin Martin House
Grassroots efforts are now in the final phase of restoring Frank Lloyd Wright’s great early career Prairie House and National Historic Landmark, making it an ideal time for fans of his work to tour the complex. The ongoing $50 million restoration encompasses structural and aesthetic enhancements, as well as an education facility that will be incorporated into the lower-level "playroom.”
Two tours of the Darwin Martin House are available: a basic one-hour tour and more in-depth two-hour option. Reservations are strongly recommended.
There is also a combination package that bundles tickets to the complex with a tour of Graycliff, another of Wright’s works that is also in the final stages of restoration. Serving as the summer home for Darwin Martin, Wright's client and friend, Graycliff is situated on the shores of Lake Erie. It's just a 30-minute drive from Buffalo. During the summer, visitors can opt for a twilight tour of the property, or yet another combination option.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Graycliff — Photo courtesy of Graycliff Conservancy
The Wright at the Water package includes lunch at the Buffalo Yacht Club, as well as tours of Graycliff and Frank Lloyd Wright's Fontana Boathouse (the only boathouse ever designed by Wright). Wright designed the boathouse in 1905 for rowing, but it was never built. In 2007, after much fundraising, three rowing friends turned their vision for his design into a reality on the shores of the Niagara River. Today, visitors of the boathouse can participate in the sport.
Another of Wright’s designs that didn’t come into fruition during his lifetime, the Buffalo Filling Station, is now becoming a reality. Housed in a glass enclosure attached to the main hall at Pierce-Arrow Buffalo Transportation Museum, the Buffalo Filling Station is nearing completion.
Wright’s vision included a second-story observation room so customers could watch their cars being serviced. The room would be complete with a fireplace, a copper roof and an overhead, gravity-fed gas distribution system for fueling cars. It would certainly make getting an oil change a less cumbersome task – even today.
Guided tours of the transportation museum - which hosts a collection of automobiles, bicycles, motorcycles and Pierce-Arrow artifacts - also offer a sneak preview of the Buffalo Filling Station.
Outside the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum — Photo courtesy of Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum