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Fireplace unveiling marks end of Darwin Martin House restoration

Officials gathered inside the Darwin Martin House in Buffalo Friday morning to unveil a new wisteria mosaic fireplace. The introduction of the fireplace marks the end of an ambitious $50 million restoration of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed complex.

The fireplace is a recreation of the original two-sided fireplace that existed when Darwin Martin and his family resided in the home from 1905 to 1935. It is decorated with a depiction of wisteria branches, leaves and blossoms. Some surviving components from the original fireplace are included.

Officials celebrated its unveiling as the final significant step in a long restoration project that began with fundraising in 1992 and the first phase of construction, replacement of the roof, in 1997.

Corporate, foundation and private donations raised millions of dollars for the restoration. New York State provided nearly half of the $50 million in total funding.

"The State of New York has invested $24 million over the years into this project," said Howard Zemsky, president and CEO of Empire State Development. "The governor's commitment of $5 million as part of Buffalo Billion Phase Two brought this project across the finish line."

The Darwin Martin House has already been an attraction to history and architecture enthusiasts. Now restored, the complex is expected to generate $20 million every year for the local economy as an international tourist destination.

"We project that we will host between 60,000 and 85,000 visitors per year at the Martin House," said Keith Stolzenburg, president of the Martin House Restoration Corporation. "Notably of that figure, most are guests who will travel here from outside New York State, including a significant international opponent bringing new dollars into our travel and tourism sectors."

Completion of restoration comes just days before the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frank Lloyd Wright, the legendary architect who designed the Darwin Martin House.

"Wright's design legacy will be celebrated regionally, nationally and internationally in recognition of that anniversary," said Mary Roberts, executive director of the Martin House Complex.

"The Martin House is without equal. Never before, nor ever again after, did Frank Lloyd Wright have the opportunity to design a complex of six residential buildings as an integrated design composition with such extensive furnishings, art glass, decorative elements and lavish landscape."

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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