Groups will experience architectural awe as they make their way through five Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings and homes throughout the Buffalo, New York, region. Each unique structure, ranging in size, use, and aesthetic, offers a unique perspective and look at Wright’s distinguished “organic architecture” and style.
“Buffalo began to boom at the turn of the century in the early 1900s,” says Leah Mueller, tourism sales director for the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau. “At the time, it was the eighth-largest city in the United States, and a lot of famous people were moving to and visiting Buffalo. This was due to the Erie Canal being built here, and it was easy for goods and services to be shipped to Buffalo and beyond to another destination.”
During his lifetime (1867-1959), Frank Lloyd Wright designed more than 1,000 homes, buildings, and structures, with over 500 realized and built far and wide. His first Buffalo home was the Darwin D. Martin House, a quintessential prairie-style home Wright was known for, which mimicked the flat and horizontal landscape of prairie land. Commissioned by New York millionaire Darwin Martin, a local executive at the Larkin Co. in Buffalo, the home was the first in a series of architectural marvels Wright designed throughout the area.
The Darwin D. Martin House is also known for its beautiful display of over 400 works of glass art and windows. It’s home to the famous Tree of Life Windows among many other geometric-shaped art glass windows.
Thirty minutes south and on the edge of Lake Erie outside of downtown Buffalo, the Graycliff house, a summer home for the Martin family, sits on 8.5 acres of lush landscape and manicured gardens. Adorned with plentiful windows and cantilevered balconies, the property gives visitors a firsthand understanding of the estate’s apt nickname, “the Jewel on the Lake.”
“One of the reasons people like to travel to Buffalo to experience and see the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings is for the year-round beauty,” Mueller says. “You can actually visit any time of year, and you’ll see something different in the landscape as the seasons change, which is a really special experience.
Beyond homes, Wright also designed a series of structures with more interesting and unusual uses across the Buffalo area including a boathouse, a mausoleum, and a gas station. The Fontana Boathouse, originally designed in 1905 and eventually completed in 2007, is used by the West Side Rowing Club in Buffalo. It sits at the crux of the Niagara River and Lake Erie and offers tours for groups on Thursdays from April through October.
Inside the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum, which showcases a mix of antique cars, bikes, and automobiles, groups will also find the Buffalo Filling Station. The 1,600-square-foot gas station, originally designed in 1920 for the Tydol Oil Co. but never constructed during Wright’s lifetime, was eventually built in 2014 inside the museum, only a few blocks from its orig- inally intended spot.
Finally, groups can visit the Blue Sky Mausoleum, yet another design commissioned by Darwin Martin, located in Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery. The granite monument, which was designed in 1928 and realized in 2004, features a series of wide, flat stones cascading down the natural landscape to a peaceful pond. Etched into a tall pillar at the south edge of the monument reads a quote by Frank Lloyd Wright: “… A burial facing the open sky … The whole could not fail of noble effect …”
See and Stay
Consider a stop at Polymath Park, a 125-acre resort in Pennsylvania’s Laurel High- lands region, to see, experience, and even stay at some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most magnificent dwellings.
Balter House: a true example of the organic architecture Wright was so well-known for.
Blum House: a locally harvested, stone- adorned home surrounded by windows.
Duncan House: a classic Usonian-style home with midcentury- modern furnishings.
Mäntylä House: a nature-inspired home, meaning “house among the pines” in Finnish.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Include a stop at nearby Fallingwater, an iconic master- piece nestled atop an idyllic waterfall. This well-known, Wright-designed home is considered the “best all-time work of American architecture” by the American Institute of Architects.
Article by Erica Zazo
Main Image: Graycliff; Credit: Patrick Mahoney