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Arts & Culture

Start of landscaping project marks final phase of Martin House restoration

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Elected officials joined representatives of the Darwin Martin House to lift ceremonial shovels Wednesday in a groundbreaking that begins the final component of the $50 million restoration of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed complex in Buffalo's Parkside neighborhood.

A historic landscape restoration to be held on the grounds of the Darwin Martin House will include a floricycle located on the Summit Avenue side of the campus, vegetative screening elements, reinstallation of English border gardens, recreation of "outdoor rooms" and the replacement of trees on the property.

"It was a designed as a focal point from the veranda. It was designed to provide privacy for this veranda, also I think very much strongly to connect the house with the landscape," said Mark Bayer, whose Bayer Landscape Architects was selected for the project. "One of Wright's principles emphasized throughout his career was connecting his buildings to nature."

Bayer and his staff spent months researching the original landscaping, relying on information from letters, diaries, photos and plans to come up with a match for how the gardens and landscaping once stood.

The funding for this phase of the Darwin Martin House restoration project is coming primarily from Buffalo Billion II dollars. 

"This is not just about historic preservation or a single cultural asset," said Martin House executive director Mary Roberts. "Just like the drawing power of Niagara Falls, Frank Lloyd Wright, the Martin House, our sister site Graycliff, are arguably Western New York's most exportable brand names to the world visitor market."

Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul (third and fourth from left) joined officials with Darwin Martin House to break ground on a landscaping project that represents the final major component of a $50 million restoration to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed complex.

Shortly after the ceremony ended, a small group of students from a nearby school were enjoying a tour of the Martin House. Keith Stolzenburg, the Martin House board president, says the center is a gem that can be enjoyed by all people, not just architecture buffs.  

"The Martin House complex is often acknowleged by architectural scholars and the academic elite but it's also a place, we'd like to say, for the common man and woman," he said. "Restoring the landscape will add a natural dimension that everybody should be able to enjoy and appreciate, whether you know anything about architecture or not."

In addition to the landscaping, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year, plans call for the installation of more site lighting, wayfinding and a café/courtyard area. 

Arts & Culture darwin martin house
Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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