The Graycliff estate was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built between 1926 and 1931. It is located 13 miles (21 km) southwest of downtown Buffalo, New York, at 6472 Old Lake Shore Road in the hamlet of Highland-on-the-Lake, with a mailing address of Derby. Sometimes called “The Jewel on the Lake,” Graycliff is sited on a bluff overlooking Lake Erie with sweeping views of downtown Buffalo and the Ontario shore. Graycliff is one of Wright’s most ambitious and extensive summer estates.
The Graycliff estate was the summer home of Isabelle R. Martin (1869–1945) and her husband, Buffalo entrepreneur Darwin D. Martin (1865–1935). Graycliff was the second of two complexes Frank Lloyd Wright designed for the couple, the first being the Martin House Complex, their city residence. By the time of Graycliff’s commission, Wright and the Martins had been personal friends and clients for over twenty years. Between the completion of the Martin House, Complex and the construction of Graycliff grew an extraordinary long-term friendship, to the extent that the Martins provided financial assistance and other support to Wright as his career unfolded.
Graycliff is one of only five of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs built between 1925 and 1935 and the only Wright-designed structure built between Taliesin (1925) and Fallingwater (1936) using stone. Wright believed the stone to be the only building material, which may be why he insisted the Martins incorporate it at Graycliff. Graycliff is considered one of Wright’s most critical mid-career works in his Organic Style. Bed Bug Exterminator Buffalo
Graycliff is a complex of three buildings integrated within an 8.5-acre (34,000 m2) landscape. It is high on a bluff with views of Lake Erie across to Ontario. In Wright’s Organic Architecture style, the buildings are set amidst extensive grounds and gardens also designed by Wright. The most prominent building, the Isabelle R. Martin House, is perhaps most remarkable for its two stone veneered sections framing a central pavilion-like center of transparent glass walls, allowing visitors to see through the building itself to the lake beyond, revolutionary for a 1926 design. It also features spacious cantilevered balconies, expansive terraces, and “ribbons” of windows that allow the experience of nature from within and through the house. On prominent apparent days, the spray of Niagara Falls is visible through the framed opening created by the cantilevered upper bridge and the stone veneered massing at each end of the home.
Although the Martin family lost much of its fortune due to the Great Depression and was forced to abandon the city house in 1937, they kept Graycliff and returned annually until 1943. The property was purchased from the family by the Piarists, a Roman Catholic teaching order, in 1951. The Piarist Fathers, from Hungary, established a boarding school on the grounds, as well as Calasanctius, a private high school for gifted children in Buffalo, named after the order’s founder. Although they added two structures to Wright’s original design, all Wright-designed buildings were left intact. Eventually, enrollment dwindled, and the schools closed; the number of priests in residence declined dramatically. Finally, in late 1997, the Piarists decided they could no longer afford to maintain the property and put it up for sale.
Address: 6472 Old Lake Shore Rd, Buffalo, NY
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