While history was never my favorite subject in school, Buffalo’s industrious past and the extravagant wealth that came with it would have to try pretty hard not to be interesting. This wealth brought some of history’s most talented artists, designers, architects and more to this city. Fortunately, Buffalo’s current renaissance is helping our city and state realize these gems of the past are worth restoring. Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces here are some of the latest landmarks to receive this well-deserved and long-awaited treatment.
Paige and I gifted my dad with tour tickets to Graycliff for his birthday last year. It took Paige planning a move to Boston (😢) to actually schedule a tour. We took the basic tour, which is an hour and 15 minutes long, for $18 each ($12 for students!) and it was definitely in-depth enough for the casual visitor. You can buy tickets online or once you arrive at the estate.
The tour starts at the gift shop, of course, where your tour guide will give you some background on Frank Lloyd Wright, Buffalo at the time when the Martins were designing this house and the Martins themselves. Graycliff is a bit of a sister home to the Darwin Martin House in Buffalo, as it served as the summer home for the Martin family.
Even on a rainy fall day, you can see why Wright took so much inspiration from this lakefront property. The horizon, visible both through and around the home, is imitated in the lines of the home, and the natural materials of the home are the same as the earth beneath it. The stone is tichenor limestone, unique due to its rusting iron content and noticeable fossils.
The exterior of Graycliff is almost completely restored, and the interior is coming together as grants and donations are secured. Lots of original details are still in tact inside, including a fire hose on the second floor, a huge stone fireplace and a greenhouse-like room filled with ferns.
Because there were only 5 of us on the tour, our guide took us through the majority of the home, even on the basic tour. She took time to share the Martins’ story, the history of the home after the Martins were no longer able to afford to maintain it, and the big picture regarding Wright’s life as an architect.
The garage, which once held the Martins’ 4 cars and driver’s living quarters, now serves as a workspace for the restoration of the home. There’s also a Pierce Arrow car, similar to one which the Martins would have traveled in, on loan from the Pierce Arrow Museum.
This tour was informative and interesting; they did a great job putting a narrative into history. And our tour guide asked me and Paige at the end if we had all the pictures we needed, which is basically a blogger’s dream come true. Graycliff is definitely worth the drive and the price of admission, no matter how much you think you like or dislike history!