Editor’s note: I have only ever been through Buffalo, rather than making it a stop. However, after hearing all about TRT writer Mandy Meehan’s awesome experience there, it is now on my list as a destination in and of itself. Her first piece features an amazing looking architectural gem. For more of Mandy’s writing, click here to visit her index.
I grew up in a city of skyscrapers, so it should be no surprise that I love architecture. I’m by no means an expert on the subject so I don’t know many names, but I do have some favorites and one of those is Frank Lloyd Wright. I was young when I started seeing some of his works in and around my hometown of Chicago and immediately found his houses to be aesthetically pleasing. It also tickled my young brain that he had a mother born in Wales, just like me. As I grew older and learned more about his design philosophy, I found his architechture even more fascinating. So when I was visiting Buffalo in November and saw the opportunity to see the Martin House that Wright designed, I had to go visit it.
The Martin House is located next to Buffalo’s Delaware Park, which is surrounded by a number of Buffalo’s important museums. I was staying downtown, so I took the Metro Rail to Amherst station and walked 13 minutes the rest of the way. Despite it being November, it was a sunny and crisp day so the walk was very enjoyable. (If you do decide to take public transport, the Token Transit App is a worthwhile download for the duration of your trip, it makes it very easy to buy various transit tickets (starting at $2 for a single ride) on your phone. I personally despise buying tickets at bus stops or on the bus, I prefer to blend in with commuters rather than stand out as a tourist.)
At first glance, the Martin House is unassuming. It sits on a corner lot of a what seemed to be a fairly typical American neighborhood with wide streets and distant lots, though the houses are definitely larger than average. The two-story Martin House did not seem quite as large or ostentatious as its much taller neighbors. However, as we rounded the street corner to the entrance and saw the giant self-watering flowerpots, we started to get a sense of the magnificance of the architecture. Our lovely tour guide Rachel met us at the front steps and informed us that the house rests on 1.5 acres of land, though it did not look it from the street view. Once we got inside, she started telling us the story of Darwin Martin, who commisioned the building of the house in 1903.
Darwin Martin was a classic rags to riches story that Americans love to boast about. He was the youngest of five and had to leave his family at the age of six; he and his brother began selling soap at the Larkin Company based in Buffalo. Darwin Martin wroked his way up through the company and was a millionaire by the age of 35. He struck up a friendship with Frank Lloyd Wright and gave him the commission to build the house with no budget. Completed in 1907, the house boasts a number of unique features; thankfully our tour guide noted some details I would have missed on my own.
The entrance of the house is very small. Rachel said that it was intentional because Wright didn’t think guests and hosts should linger in a doorway, but rather that they should feel compelled to move either in or out. Immediately through the doorway, the ceiling and the house opened up. We could see all the way through the house and the courtyard, and into the conservatory right from the entrance. It was breathtaking. The house itself was also gorgeous. Almost all the furniture inside was also designed by the architect to reflect both the design and the intended atmosphere for each room. There were several amazingly designed central fireplaces connecting some of the rooms. I was most interested at the design elements he considered for the staff of the house. The kitchen was one of the biggest, brightest, and most efficient I have ever seen. It had thoughtfully designed workstations so the cooking process could be both pleasant and smooth. It even had a wall of huge windows which made it one of the brightest room in the house and one most of its owners would rarely see.
These were just some of my favorite features of the house. If I returned to Buffalo, I would have to see it again. I love that Frank Lloyd Wright put so much intentional thought into his designs, making them simultaneously beautiful and functional. I highly recommend making this a part of a Buffalo trip.
Thank you to the Martin House and Visit Buffalo Niagara for hosting my incredible experience!
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