A Wintry Trip to the Darwin Martin House

Darwin Martin House

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House – 125 Jewett Parkway, Buffalo, NY

Since about third grade, I’ve been fascinated by architecture and, for some reason, Frank Lloyd Wright especially caught my eye. While other kids were getting Barbies and Legos for Christmas (just kidding, I was still getting Barbies too), I received books about Frank Lloyd Wright. Later, I decided architecture was more an interest than career for me, but my best friend ended up pursuing architecture in college. So, a few weeks ago while she was visiting, we took her to see one of the many architectural treasures of Buffalo, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House.

Darwin Martin House Planter

Wright was known for integrating buildings with nature, which was a vital part of his design for the Martin House.

The complex, now a National Historic Landmark, was built between 1903 and 1905 for wealthy businessman Darwin D. Martin and his family. The Martin family lived in the house for about 30 years until they were struck with a sudden loss of fortune. Ultimately, after Darwin Martin’s death, his family abandoned the house. It sat vacant for many years, vandalized and deteriorated. After the city took control of the property, it changed hands several times over, at times being used as apartments, as well as a residence for the president of the University at Buffalo. Parts of the complex were even torn down over the years.

Exterior of the carriage house (at left), now home to the gift shop, and conservatory at right

In 1992, the Martin House Restoration Corporation was formed to restore and rebuild the house to its former glory. For the past 20+ years, the group has been recreating the complex to be exactly as it was at its completion in the early 1900s. While the restoration has required significantly more time and money than initially expected, it sure is a beauty.

Darwin Martin House Conservatory

Looking up in the conservatory

Though this was my second visit, I noticed details I hadn’t before. The docent rattled off facts and stories I hadn’t heard my first time through. More of the house had been restored since my former visit, too, including the library, living room, and dining room—an open and gorgeous set of rooms at the front of the house complete with a Steinway grand piano. Basically, I floated around in awe once again. And I have to say, the Martin House Complex felt especially dreamy during this holiday season.

While you’re not allowed to take pictures inside the house, these are some of the photos from my recent trip. (All taken with my iPhone because I wasn’t thinking and completely forgot to bring my camera!)

The Gardener's Cottage at the Darwin Martin House

The Gardener’s Cottage

Darwin Martin House Exteriors

Darwin Martin House Conservatory

In the conservatory with the pergola in the background through the doors.

Darwin Martin House Gardener's Cottage

View from the Gardener’s Cottage

Holiday flowers in the conservatory

Exterior view of the pergola and house from the courtyard

At left: One of the nearly 400 examples of Wright’s art glass that exists at the Martin House complex. At right: The Gardener’s Cottage

Looking up into the pergola from the conservatory

Martin worked for the Larkin Company. He was assigned to to hire an architect to build a new administrative building. He hired Frank Lloyd Wright.

Nike of Samothrace in the conservatory.

Exterior of the house – Frank Lloyd Wright believed in “breaking the box.”

No matter whether or not you’ve been before, spending an hour or two at this Buffalo staple is so worth your time. If you’re visiting from out of town, be sure to add a stop at the Darwin Martin House to your Buffalo itinerary. You’ve got to see inside!

Next stop for me is Graycliff, the Martin family’s summer home on Lake Erie. Maybe I’ll wait until the weather has warmed up a bit for that. Stay tuned!

{You can learn more about the Darwin Martin House complex, and find ticket and tour information here.}