Monument: Darwin Martin House Complex
Location: Buffalo, New York
Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright’s first commission in the Eastern United States is actually a series of five programmatically different structures strung together along a residential site in the affluent Parkside neighborhood. Darwin D. Martin, one of Buffalo’s richest businessman and a prominent figure at Larkin Soap Company, sought out Wright’s services after the architect built the William E. Martin House for his brother in Oak Park, Illinois. Martin was also instrumental in selecting Wright as the architect for the now demolished Larkin Administration Building.
The complex’s floor plan is based on drawings Wright created to show a new model for American residential architecture titled “A Home in a Prairie Town,” published in the Ladies Home Journal in 1901. The Martin House was the family’s main living space. It consists of 8 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and an open plan library, living room, and dining room. The carriage house (that initially stored carriages and later automobiles), conservatory (a green house that supplied the estate’s plants), as well as the Barton House (a house for Martin’s sister and her family) are united by a low linear pergola. The pergola frames a view onto a statue of Nike of Samothrace in the conservatory from the main entrance of the Martin House.
The entirety is executed in the Prairie Style. Through its use of horizontality, overhanging eaves, organic material expression, craftsmanship, and integration with landscape, the movement strove to establish a uniquely American architecture that stood out against the Neoclassicism prevalent at the time. Wright himself considered the Martin House Complex, a precursor to the more famous Robie House, as one of the most significant in his career, keeping it pinned on his drafting table for nearly 50 years.