Martin House - Table of Contents   ....................  Darwin D. Martin House Complex - Table of Contents

Exterior - Darwin D. Martin House

History Beneath Illustrations


Frank Lloyd Wright


Prairie house


Restoration date:
Restoration: The process of repairing or renovating a building, work of art, etc., so as to restore it to its original condition or to a particular time - "the period of significance"


O. S. Lang

Plumbing and heating system:

Foster and Glidden


Pierson, Sefton Co., Jersey City, NJ. During construction, fifty men worked ten hours, six days per week for two years. They were paid $2 per day.


Glassmaker: the company responsible for all of the art glass windows is the Linden Glass Company, Chicago, IL. (Replacement windows have been made the Oakbrook Esser Studio in Oconomowac. WI)


National Register of Historic Places

Official Martin Complex Home Page:

Official Martin Complex Home Page

2001, 2008, 2011, and 2012 photos

2001 photo.
Source: Buffalo Historical Society Publications, Volume 30, 1930

Isabelle Martin   ...   Eleck F. Halls, photographer

Frank Lloyd Wright

2001 photo.
51 Summit   ...   The house that Darwin Martin lived in when he commissioned Wright to build a new house

2008 photo.
51 Summit

2008 photo.
51 Summit bell roof

2001 photo.
Martin House Complex - model.
Bottom: Martin House   ...   Top: Barton House   ...   Far left: Carriage House - demolished. Scheduled for reconstruction by the Martin House Restoration Corporation   ...   Middle: Pergola and Conservatory, both demolished, but which are also scheduled for reconstruction.
Source: Signage in front of the house on Jewett Parkway

2001 photo.
Architect's drawing: south facade (Jewett Ave.)   ...   The two-story house, 150 feet by 72 feet, has an open plan in the shape of a Latin cross.
Source: Library of Congress All American Memory
(1 of 27 drawings. Also: 15 black and white photos and 14 data pages)

2001 photo.
Architect's drawing: north facade.
Source: Library of Congress All American Memory

2012 photo. 

Photos below from house left to right:

2012 photo. 
Left: Greatbatch Pavilion Visitor Center (glass and shades)   ...   Martin House façade (Jewett Avenue)

2012 photo. 

2001 photo.  - South façade (Jewett Ave.).
The driveway passes beneath a projecting, open porte-cochere which is located to the west and acts as an extension of the south façade   ...   The ginkgo tree on the right was part of the original plantings

2001 photo.
Prairie house style   ...   Eaves, cornices, and facade emphasize horizontal lines

2001 photo.
One of two low, large, rectangular Roman brick chimneys which have simple stone caps which echo the string courses   ...   Prairie house feature: Large and very low chimney is found at axis of intersecting roof planes

2018 photo.
Note ribbon windows and terra cotta roof tiles   ...   Greatbatch Visitors center in background

2001 photo.
Bands of casement windows   ...   Stone string courses serve as window sills and emphasize horizontal lines   ...   Restored double gutters
Zebra grass not in the original plantings   ...   Wright-designed birdhouse   ...   Main entry towards right above zebra grass

2001 photo.
The south façade gives no indication as to the location of the main entrance (the dark area in the center of the photo)   ...  The Roman brick wall acts as a screen. The brick wall was originally all one level. The concrete capstone gave the impression of one continuous band across the house. The wall is currently two levels due to deterioration in the brick over time. To further obscure the front entrance there was an urn placed strategically on the wall.

2001 photo.
Screened main entry on south façade - typical Wright    ...   All entrances are approached by walkways and concrete steps   ...   All walkways are contained beneath the overhanging eaves.

2001 photo.
Widely overhanging eaves   ...   Stone string courses serve as window sills and lintels  ...   Large pier buttresses

2001 photo.
The stained glass windows or "art glass" were integral to this complex. The lines of these windows are ruler straight, a design element embraced by Wright as he thought curves were representative of decadent decoration.

Wright called his windows "light screens" and considered them part of the walls, not merely holes in the walls. The windows were used to create textural changes within the rooms and to control the eye and shape its vision. In Wrightian homes windows were used to create subdued illumination or a "moonlight effect". Colors and stains were carefully chosen to emit more or less light and Wright often used opaque or iridescent glass for variety and interest.

Above all Wright believed his windows were an integral part of his overall design and were meant to be appreciated as works of art and most definitely not to be covered with heavy draperies.

2001 photo.
The art glass windows and Roman brick are used inside the house also   ...   Pale, orange brown Roman brick with raked horizontal mortar joints and vertical ground joints   ...   Replacement terra cotta roof tiles imported from France by the Martin House Restoration Corporation during initial stages of restoration of the Martin Complex

2001 photo.
Wright-designed martin birdhouse   ...    (There were four and, originally, they sat on the four corners of the glass-roofed conservatory, now demolished but scheduled for reconstruction by the Martin House Restoration Corporation.)

2001 photo.
Two Wright-designed martin bird houses   ...   (There were four and, originally, they sat on the four corners of the glass-roofed conservatory, now demolished but scheduled for reconstruction.)

2001 photo - Verandah.
An open elevated verandah to the east has a large, low hipped roof

2001 photo - Verandah.
Pedestal urn   ...   Screened entry to the verandah - typical Wright.

2001 photo - Verandah.
Access to the verandah is provided by two sets of concrete steps located to the north and south (pictured), immediately adjacent to the exterior house wall ...   All entrances are approached by walkways and concrete steps    ...   All walkways are contained beneath the overhang

2001 photo - Verandah.
Concrete steps to verandah   ...   Horizontal steel beams help support the hipped roof.

2001 photo - Verandah.
View from living room.   ...   The extended ceiling and overhead beams visually draw the sight to the extensive plantings

2001 photo - Verandah.
 Entrance to living room from the verandah  ...   The floor-to-ceiling glass doors extend the house into the outdoors and also serve to bring the outdoors into the house, deliberately blurring the distinction between interior space and the surrounding terrain   ...   At the time of this photograph, the stained glass ("light screen") windows have been removed for restoration

2001 photo - Verandah.
Roman brick and tiles used on exterior and interior   ...   To stabilize the Martin house, bricks were taken from the Barton House entrance steps wall.   ...   The Martin House Restoration Corporation will require 400,000 new Roman bricks for the future restoration of the Martin Complex

2001 photo - Verandah.
The low hipped roofs set on steel frames have deep overhanging eaves with stucco soffits
....   Note lack of downspouts (Wright despised downspouts)

2011 photo - Verandah.
Right: Hipped roof-covered verandah

2011 photo - Verandah.
Right: Verandah

2011 photo - Verandah.
Right: Verandah   ...    Note 5' wide cantilevered overhanging eaves in upper left.

2011 photo - Verandah.
Left: Verandah

2011 photo - Verandah.
Middle: Verandah   ...   Right: Barton House on Summit Avenue

East Elevation (Summit Avenue)

2011 photo - East elevation.
Verandah in middle foreground extends the house horizontally, a main feature of a Prairie style house   ...   Note crane at left   ...   Pergola at right

2011 photo - East elevation.
From left: Martin House, Pergola, Barton House   ...   Far left: verandah

2011 photo - East elevation.
Verandah   ...   Pergola and Conservatory at right   ...   Planters are carefully designed to bridge the gap between exterior and interior   ...   Note two (gray) drains in lawn: Wright did not use external metal drain pipes which he considered aesthetically damaging  

2012 photo - East elevation.
Carefully concealed drain

2011 photo - East elevation.
Ribbon windows help compensate for the loss of natural light in the house due to widely overhanging eaves

2011 photo.
Verandah at left   ...   Even the Roman bricks  help extend the house horizontally

Darwin Denice (pronounced de NICE) Martin was born in Bouckville, New York in 1865. Following the tragic death of his mother in 1871, he endured a lonely childhood, finally going to work at the age of 13 as a "soap slinger" for the Larkin Company. It was this separation from his mother and siblings that determined his goal to build a complex of houses where his remaining family might reassemble.

Darwin was the only high-ranking executive in the Larkin Soap Company who was not related in any way to the Larkin family. He had been with the company since 1879, when Larkin trained the 13-year-old to be the company's first bookkeeper. His success came as the result of hard work and his invention of a card file system of accounting which revolutionized the business.

William Heath, John Larkin's brother-in-law brought from Chicago to head up the company law division, is the person who told Darwin Martin about Frank Lloyd Wright and encouraged Darwin to seek out Wright's work in Oak Park. Heath had a brother working construction for Wright in Oak Park.

Darwin Martin convinced his brother, William Martin,  who wanted to build a new house on the lake shore in Chicago, to go with him to Oak Park to see the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1902, William commissioned Wright to design a house for his family in Oak Park.
Martin brought Wright to Buffalo in November 1902 to look at a lot on Oakland Place that  Martin  owned. Wright  convinced Martin to purchase the property at Jewett and Summit and the Barton House was started.  

The decision to build a new Larkin Co. administration building was first made in 1902. John Larkin was interested in Louis Sullivan as the architect. Martin was instrumental in getting Wright the Larkin commission, as well.

he complex of buildings that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for Darwin D. Martin (who was living at 151 Summit (PHOTO ABOVE) - the Barton House is located at 118 Summit) consisted of a main house and four outlying buildings, which were unified by Wright's rigorous and consistent use of cruciform plans, piers and cantilevers, and other prairie house principles. The five buildings:

The Martins employed a full-time gardener
who had to provide fresh flowers daily from the greenhouse behind the gardener's cottage for every room in the main house, a task which he assiduously accomplished until his employer died in 1935. Martin had Wright design a house for him at 285 Woodward Ave.

Still another Larkin Company top manager, Walter V. Davidson, decided to have a home at
57 Tillinghast Place done by Wright in 1908.

Completing Wright's architectural contributions to the Buffalo landscape was the summer house,
Graycliff, that he designed for Darwin Martin at Derby on the south shore of Lake Erie in 1927.

The Martin House was distinguished from most of Wright's other Prairie style houses by its unusually large size and open plan. It is said that Wright was given a virtually unlimited budget for this commission.

Typical Prairie Style features on the Martin House:
  • Two stories
  • Exterior: One-story wings or porches
  • Exterior: Eaves, cornices, and facade emphasizing horizontal lines
  • Exterior: Built-in planter box
  • Porch: Massive, square porch supports
  • Porch: deep, horizontal
  • Porch: hipped-roof
  • Roof: Widely overhanging eaves with enclosed rafters
  • Roof: Wide soffit under projecting eaves
  • Roof: Hipped usually
  • Roof: Low-pitched
  • Roof: Clay tiles
  • Roof: Broad, flat chimney:
  • Windows: grouped casements
  • Windows: Geometric patterns of small pane window glazing
  • Large Suburban Prairie Home: Exterior: buttress piers
  • Large Suburban Prairie Home: Exterior: Roman brick
  • Large Suburban Prairie Home: Exterior: Pedestal urns
  • Large Suburban Prairie Home: Windows: colored glass ("art glass"), leaded (brass on this house) glass

Today, after periods of neglect and vandalism, the Martin house is partially restored, although the conservatory, pergola, and carriage house have been demolished. In 1954, the Martin house was subdivided into two apartments and an owner's residence, and so remained until its purchase in 1966 by the State University of New York at Buffalo. It has served as the residence for the university president, as well as headquarters for the Alumni Association and the repository for the university archives. Presently, in 2001, the Martin and Barton houses are open as a museum and the entire Martin complex will be restored to 1907 for about $23 million.


Special thanks to the following for their cooperation:   Executive Director Mary F. Roberts, Director of Operations Margaret P. Stehlik, and Marketing Manager Caitlin Deibel

Photographs taken by Chuck LaChiusa
Photos © 2018 Martin House Restoration Corporation

| ...Home Page ...| ..Buffalo Architecture Index...| ..Buffalo History Index... .|....E-Mail ...| ..

web site consulting by ingenious, inc.