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Home > Our City > Buffalo My City > Buffalo My City Watercolors > 26-A Darwin Martin House (1993)

26-A Darwin Martin House (1993)

Narrative by - David M. Rote
(Narratives are copyrighted)

The Darwin D. Martin House was built 1904-1906 and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, a student of architect Louis Sullivan who designed Buffalo's Guaranty Building in 1895. Mr. Wright came to Buffalo at the behest of the Martin brothers - William and Darwin - who were associated with the John D. Larkin Soap Company, to design a completely fireproof, environmentally friendly administration building for Mr. Larkin's fast-growing business. Larkin had founded his soap business in Chicago and Frank Lloyd Wright had designed a home there for William Martin, a top Larkin sales representative. When Larkin moved his business to Buffalo in 1875, Elbert Hubbard and William's brother Darwin joined the growing company and Hubbard's sister Frances married John Larkin. Having admired his brother's home in Chicago, Darwin Martin commissioned Wright to build a house in Buffalo. Wright at the time was a proponent of the Prairie Style, an architectural form encompassing openness and dominating horizontals and the Martin family had moved into this house by 1908. The house included a pavilion connected to four outlying buildings as well. Wright also designed a summer home for Darwin Martin - Graycliff - recently occupied by the Piarist Fathers in Evans, New York.

Darwin D. Martin died in December of 1935 and his wife chose to move into an apartment in 1937. Mr. Martin's son, Darwin R., removed all the family possessions, including the Wright-designed furnishings, doors and art glass windows and the home was literally abandoned. Through the years, much damage was done to the unheated interior as well as to the exterior grounds. Finally in 1946, the city of Buffalo assumed ownership for back taxes and the Martin house was placed under a conservatorship and put up for sale.

It wasn't until 1954 that loving hands again encompassed the desolate house in the person of Buffalo architect Sebastian J. Tauriello and his family. Mr. Tauriello set about restoring the interior and exterior of the home and several of the outbuildings were razed. His untimely death in 1965 precipitated the sale of the house in 1967 to the State University of New York at Buffalo with funds advanced by The Buffalo Foundation. Some further restoration has been accomplished and guided tours have been conducted occasionally. A several-year, multi-million dollar restoration project to return the Martin house, one of five Frank Lloyd Wright homes in Buffalo, to its former grandeur was launched in the fall of 1993.