|Interior of Larkin Company administration building|
I missed an opportunity back in the 1980s to tour Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater home and have always regretted it. So I was thrilled when Maggie squeezed a trip to Buffalo into our schedule to visit Wright's Martin House Complex and Graycliff Estate.
Darwin D. Martin was a self-made man. He began his career selling soap door-to-door with the Larkin company when he was 12. His hard work came to the company's attention almost immediately, and he was moved to Buffalo at the age of 13 to work in the office. Over time, he rose to become the equivalent of the company's chief operating officer. One of his tasks was to build a new headquarters for the company. Although Martin initially wanted Louis Sullivan to design the structure, his Chicago-based brother told him about Frank Lloyd Wright, an
up-and-coming young architect. The rest is history.
Darwin was so taken with Wright's talent that he also retained him to design a complex for his family. The site was just ten doors down from where the Martin family was currently living. Wright's first assignment was a starter home for Darwin's sister and her family. The Barton House is a modest 2,000 square foot home with one art glass window design used throughout. (This was Wright's nod to working on a budget.) Interestingly, each art glass design became the property of the owner so is unique to the property for which it was created. Wright's estimate to build the home was $4,000; it came in at $12,000. (And we're talking 1903 dollars.)
|Darwin D. Martin House|
|Tree of Life window|
Darwin's relationship with Wright continued long past the completion of the Martin Complex in 1905, the estimated cost of which is $300,000. Darwin's devotion to Wright led him to act as Wright's private banker of sorts until the Martins lost all of their money in the crash of 1929. When Darwin died in 1935, Wright owed him $70,000. The money was never repaid. Isabelle abandoned the property with back taxes due and moved to Graycliff Estate, also designed by Wright.
|Reconstruction of the Pergola in 2006|
All in all, my first visit to a Frank Lloyd Wright home was worth the wait. But our day wasn't over, with our next stop being Isabelle's Graycliff Estate on Lake Erie. Stay tuned for my post about our visit.